IG Principles Among New HIM Developments in the Spotlight

From information governance (IG) to research to the increased use of health IT, new developments in the health information management (HIM) arena were in the spotlight during Tuesday’s general session.

Incoming AHIMA President Cassi Birnbaum, MS, RHIA, CPHQ, FAHIMA, described how her late brother’s encouragement inspired her professional interest in expanding HIM’s applied research pathway. Her brother, Joel Nagorner, died in 2010, and Birnbaum has created an endowed research scholarship fund to support evidence-based research in HIM through the AHIMA Foundation.

“Joel knew that I was passionate about my work in my own hospital as well as my efforts with the broader healthcare community in successfully making the transition from paper to electronic records with meaningful use as well as health information exchange efforts,” Birnbaum said. “I would share with him my vision of a patient-accessible electronic record that would facilitate patients’ involvement in their own care. He loved to travel the world, and I would describe to him the larger vision of a record accessible when and where it is needed.”

ONC Offers New Tools for Change

Judy Murphy, RN, FACMI, FHIMSS, FAAN, chief nursing officer in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), highlighted the progress that has been made nationally in using health IT to drive healthcare transformation.

“The industry has focused on electronic health records (EHRs), but health IT is bigger than that,” she said. In her experience, Murphy said, “implementation was the easy part. The hard part was using the tool to make a change.”

ONC’s key priorities are interoperability and patient engagement, Murphy said. With regard to interoperability, “part of the way to get to that is to create consumer demand for it,” she said. “Patients should expect and demand that their information follows them.”

Murphy said that the “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program has been an “amazing journey,” but it is just the beginning. The program has created a tipping point and a culture shift with regard to the automation and modernization of healthcare.

“It is taking us from using technology to improve access to information and then using that information to transform care,” Murphy said, noting that studies have shown that meaningful use has had positive effects on quality, safety, and efficiency.

Murphy highlighted other resources that ONC has created to promote interoperability and patient engagement, as well as a new practice transformation toolkit for providers “that really helps you move the EHR to the next level,” she said. The resources are available on ONC’s website.

IG Principles will Filter the Flood of Health Information

AHIMA’s EVP/Operations and COO Deborah Green, MBA, RHIA, unveiled the first Information Governance Principles for Healthcare, developed by AHIMA and industry experts to guide healthcare organizations in adopting an information governance (IG) program. Green said that the flood of healthcare information “is not retreating; the levels of information are going to rise and rise.”

But, she said, the lack of agreed-upon rules and standards in the healthcare environment, the expanding uses and sources of information, and the current state of interoperability are all posing challenges to health information managers. That, she said, is why the industry needs IG.

“Governance of information is the higher ground,” Green said.

The release of the principles, which can be downloaded from ahima.org, signals AHIMA’s commitment to harnessing information to achieve the goals of improving population health, enhancing patient outcomes and experience, and reducing costs.

“It’s an important strategic vehicle for organizations in terms of reaching the Triple Aim,” Green said.

Adopting IG will also help organizations establish policies, determine accountability, establish information life cycles, protect information, and promote investments in information technology, she said.

Green emphasized that the principles do not focus on one type of healthcare organization, nor is their application limited to one type of data or one kind of media. Instead, IG will provide “a coordinating layer across all functions, so that we can rely on and trust information,” Green said.

Galina Datskovsky, PhD, IGP, CRM, a member of AHIMA’s IG Task Force, introduced AHIMA’s IG Framework, which includes the principles, a maturity model, and resources organizations can use to operationalize IG. She walked the audience through the eight principles: accountability, transparency, integrity, protection, compliance, availability, retention, and disposition.

AHIMA will next release a maturity model that organizations can use to measure their programs against the principles. There will be five levels of maturity ranging from “not started” to “transformational.”

Next year, pilot programs will “serve as a proving ground” for the maturity model and tools, Green said. In the future, AHIMA hopes to build an industry assessment tool to benchmark the level of IG adoption.

Armed with these tools, HIM professionals can stanch the rising flow of proliferating health information. “We have arrived at higher ground,” Green said.

Catch up on the news and get insights from AHIMA’s 86th annual Convention and Exhibit held September 27-October 2 in San Diego, CA. For a complete list of event coverage on the Journal of AHIMA website, click here.


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