Helping Grads Grasp the Ins and Outs of Data Governance

Before we can govern, we need to know it is that we need to be governing.

That was the message that underscored Monday’s presentation “Data Governance: What’s Under the Covers” delivered by Merida L. Johns, PhD, RHIA, and Linda Kloss, MA, RHIA, FAHIMA, at AHIMA’s Assembly on Education in Chicago, IL.

The traditional model that health information professionals used to follow, in which they would control, monitor, and track information, involved people, processes, and documents, Johns explained. It wasn’t so much about what was in the documents, or getting down into the details of the quality of the data available. The contemporary model of practice, however, involves people, processes, content, and technology. And it requires health information management (HIM) professionals to plan, organize, and control information.

Data governance, according to the presentation, is defined as an enterprise-wide authority that ensures control and accountability for data through the establishment of data policies and standards. This governance is accomplished through implementation and monitoring through a formal structure of assigned roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities. Data governance extends to governing the input to the system itself.

Within the contemporary model of practice there are several areas that need to be taken into account, according to Johns. These include:

  • Data lifecycle
  • Data architecture
  • Meta data management
  • Master data management
  • Content management
  • Data security management
  • Business intelligence
  • Data quality management
  • Terminology management


Each of these areas, Johns noted, could be its own course within a graduate program of study.

“Data governance is not a slogan, not a topic, not just one course,” Johns said. In the advanced stages of a maturity model, enterprise information management should become the curriculum, with data governance serving as an integrating concept, according to the presentation.

“We’re both early and late,” said Kloss. Although many organizations are just now working on data governance programs, the planning and education for these principles should have been in place before the big shift to electronic took place. Results will not come from new technology alone. Graduate educators have the opportunity to drive transformational change, Kloss said.


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