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AHIMA: Information Governance – an organization’s key asset

September 09, 2016
Lydia Washington
From the September 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Lydia Washington

Information has always been one of an organization’s most important assets. Driven by an explosion of data from myriad sources, major investments in health information technology (HIT) and fundamental changes in the health care policy environment, information requires high-level oversight to be used optimally in all aspects of organizational decision-making. It’s almost impossible to imagine any action, reaction or transaction that does not require information in a health care or business setting.

All this information is of limited use, though, if it is not available where and when it is needed. The way to make this happen is through Information Governance (IG). IG has become an imperative for any health care organization. Nearly all other types of organizational assets — financial, human, physical — are managed using governance or oversight that emanates from fiduciary duty at the highest levels of the organization. Yet because information has not been recognized as an organizational asset until relatively recently, it is still a novel idea to some that governance should be applied to health information as it is applied to other assets.

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) defines IG as, “an organization-wide framework for managing information throughout its life cycle and for supporting the organization’s strategy, operations, regulatory, legal, risk and environmental requirements.” It implies there is purposeful coordination and integration of information across all parts of the organization as well as multidisciplinary stakeholder engagement in the decision-making processes related to information and its management. This involves addressing inconsistencies in information-related policies and practices, as well as implementing standardization where appropriate.

A set of foundational principles promulgated by ARMA International provides the basis for IG policies and practices in health care as well as other industries. They have been adopted and adapted by AHIMA for health care as the Information Governance Principles for Health Care (IGPHC) and include: accountability; transparency; integrity; protection; compliance; availability; retention; and disposition.

In addition to a focus on these principles as information policies and practices, the critical components of a successful IG program include:

One or more executive sponsors whose role is to assure that information and its governance is aligned with organizational strategy.

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