How Is Your Organization Suffering from Poor Information Governance?

John Lynn

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When HIM professionals raise the importance of information governance in their organization, many healthcare leaders brush it off as not important or as the job of the HIM profession. Organizations that take these approaches to information governance are going to suffer and miss out on huge opportunities for their organization to better serve their patients.

The most obvious impact of poor information governance relates to the legal issues they can create. We all know how important information governance is to privacy and security. However, most organizations haven’t actually spent the time and money required to address these issues. Given the number of HIPAA breaches lately, it is only a matter of time until poor information governance will lead to a privacy and security violation in your organization. Have you made every effort to avoid these violations? Are you prepared for when they occur?

While privacy and security are important legal challenges for an organization, poor information governance can also lead to a lot of compliance risk. A simple, but likely unseen example was illustrated when an EHR vendor was recently hit with a massive settlement from the government for not complying fully with the EHR certification and meaningful use attestation requirements. Since most healthcare organizations have now taken federal incentive money, they are at risk for the same kind of settlement if they have not properly attested to things like meaningful use, PQRS and now MACRA. Information governance should ensure that you have participated properly in these federal programs.

Besides the legal and compliance risks, healthcare providers are becoming increasingly dependent on the data stored in their EHR and other health IT systems in making clinical decisions. Everything from simple clinical decision support (CDS) systems to advanced genomics is relying on data to make important clinical decisions. This means that poor information governance is going to eventually lead to poor clinical decisions. No organization wants the medical malpractice situations that will come from this.

In many current cases, a human provider still verifies and validates the clinical decisions and avoids poor quality outcomes. However, poor quality data given to a provider can really reduce how quickly they can see and treat patients. In other words, poor information governance often leads to reduced organizational performance. Inefficient doctors don’t only decrease an organization’s ability to effectively see patients, but it also contributes to physician burnout and its associated impacts.

Anyone who’s worked in information governance knows the impact it can have on revenue cycle. I have yet to see a healthcare organization that has their revenue cycle management completely under control. Information governance in the revenue cycle world is an ongoing effort and directly impacts the bottom line of your organization. These efforts will likely never end given the changing reimbursement requirements and the staff turnover that exists in healthcare.

One of the biggest unexpected benefits of high quality information governance is the accountability it infuses into an organization. The simple fact that medical records are being reviewed and requests are being made to correct the record improves the quality of the information being stored in our health IT systems. Information governance holds providers accountable and improves future performance.

As you can see, information governance impacts the whole spectrum of financial, legal, compliance, and efficiency factors that drive an organization. However, information governance cannot just be something assigned to the HIM department. It has to be something that is embraced by the entire organization to really make an impact. Doing so will be one of the best investments you make.

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