Of all industry sectors, Healthcare probably has the most intensive focus on Information Governance. It’s not hard to see why. The effective use of information is vital for proper patient care and effective treatment.
Yet a recent survey from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) revealed that, overall, Information Governance programmes were less prevalent or mature than required, given the importance of Healthcare information.
Information Governance in Healthcare establishes the centralised policies, procedures and accountabilities for managing the lifecycle of patient information. It promotes the use of trusted information that is essential for patient engagement and treatment. Every Healthcare organisation recognises that Information Governance is a business imperative. However, the focus has primarily been on data privacy and confidentiality.
Most organisations now have clearly set out and enforced rules for the creation, processing and access of patient records and operational information. This extends to the use of a new generation of mobile devices and how information is shared between parties involved in the Healthcare process. Indeed, the AHIMA survey showed that information privacy and information security were the most mature elements of any Information Governance programme.
Towards a Comprehensive Information Governance Strategy
Information Governance in Healthcare has developed in a point-to-point fashion in response to different regulatory compliance and data protection requirements. AHIMA found that only 35% of respondents had developed a corporate-wide strategy for Information Governance, only 1 in 10 thought their cross-functional Information Governance structures were mature. The result of this is that many organisations are likely to be building inefficiency and costs into their Information Governance programmes without developing the centralised control of information management they require.
Healthcare organisations should review the following points in order to ensure they have a successful Information Governance programme:
Establish a Cross-Functional Information Governance Committee
Executives from all areas of the organisation must be brought together to take a holistic view of information use within the organisation.
Create an Organisation-Wide Strategy
Consider whether too much focus has been placed on the delivery of frontline services. An over-arching strategy is needed – including patient care, organisational performance and risk mitigation – to establish your organisation’s goals and priorities, and consistently drive these through information systems and business processes.
Here you need to think about Governance Infrastructure. Many organisations may feel that they have this already. However, the AHIMA survey revealed that this may not actually be the case. Few respondents believed that they would be able to preserve only relevant information in response to a legal hold. Your infrastructure needs to encompass all Information Governance elements and manage all healthcare and business information held in paper and electronic formats effectively.
Develop the Existing Framework
Most Healthcare organisations have already invested heavily and evolved their work practices to support Information Governance activities. These initial efforts should be built upon. Organisations should leverage their mature privacy and information security elements to enhance their programme elsewhere. For example, check that information is properly tagged and classified so information is identified and then deleted at the earliest point.
Empower the Employee
Privacy and information security has shown how often the business user is the information custodian. As your Information Governance programme becomes more integrated, training will be required to explain new work processes, as well as how they will benefit the organisations and Healthcare users. The AHIMA survey showed this as a major area of weakness with few organisations having mature training programmes.
All Information Governance programmes aim for continuous improvement. But if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Only one in ten of the AHIMA respondents had established metrics to assess and improve their Information Governance programmes. A comprehensive range of performance metrics must be created and analysed to ensure that your programme is reaching its goals and your investments are properly directed.