Breaking Down Information Governance Versus Data Governance

In a far-reaching discussion, health information management thought leaders talked about small- and big-picture challenges facing HIM professionals willing to tackle information governance during Monday’s afternoon plenary session at AHIMA’s Health Information Integrity Summit.

Lydia Washington, MS, RHIA, CPHIMS, a senior director of HIM practice excellence at AHIMA, moderated the panel discussion “Expanding the HIM Domain to Information and Data Governance,” in a session concluding the first day of the Alexandria, VA-based summit.

Panelists for the session included Susan White, PhD, CHDA, associate professor at Ohio State University; Kathleen Addison, vice president of health information management at Alberta Health Services, Alberta, CA; and Michele O’Connor, MPA, RHIA, FAHIMA, worldwide master data management sales, chief privacy officer  for IBM Initiate Solutions, IBM Software Group, Information Management.

All three panelists agreed on a basic definition of information governance—managing the systems used to collect and maintain data, keep it secure, keep it clean and pure. However, Washington got right to the point when she asked the panelists a question that many in the HIM industry have been asking each other: What is the difference between information governance and data governance?

“Data governance is keeping garbage from getting in,” White said. “Information governance is the decisions we make in using that data… For me, data governance keeps garbage from coming in, information governance is keeping garbage from coming out.”

(From left) AHIMA’s Lydia Washington moderates a discussion on information governance with Susan White, Kathleen Addison, and Michele O’Connor.

(From left) AHIMA’s Lydia Washington moderates a discussion on information governance with Susan White, Kathleen Addison, and Michele O’Connor.

While information governance has become a buzzword in recent years, O’Connor argued that HIM professionals have been doing governance and stewardship tasks for decades. She said that she has spent over 25 years, even before the use of  electronic health records, working on issues such as data quality, data management, and identity management.

“We have been doing this our entire careers,” O’Connor said.

In summary, Washington asked another pointed question. Healthcare professionals, particularly those working in HIM, have a lot on their plate right now; Why should they care about information governance?

Each panelist agreed that, foremost, improved outcomes is a top priority, but White noted that it’s time to start seeing some return on investment, noting that healthcare systems are willing to do a lot to improve how they are ranked on best of care lists and viewed by the outside.

“I’ve been able to motivate people to be very interested in data quality. I probably should change my vocabulary,” White noted with a laugh. “People measure from outside. And if we can’t answer that from outside, that hurts us.”

The session was a smooth end to the day, which had a somewhat rocky start when a mass shooting Monday morning at the nearby Washington Navy Yard in Washington D.C. put the area on lockdown and delayed flights at Reagan National Airport. The temporary airport lockdown delayed several summit speakers, leading organizers to adjust the summit schedule.



Follow the Journal‘s coverage for news and insights from AHIMA’s Health Information Integrity Summit taking place September 16-17 in Alexandria, VA. To explore more, click here.

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