Data Governance Leads to IG Governance for Carilion Clinic

Thomas "Mac" Marlow speaks at AHIMA's IG Summit.

Thomas “Mac” Marlow speaks at AHIMA’s IG Summit.

To cheers and laughter from the audience, one of the keynote presenters at AHIMA’s Information Governance Thought Leadership Summit on Friday declared that his organization, the Carilion Clinic, believes that data governance is innately sexy.

While Thomas “Mac” Marlow, MBA, PMP, of the Carilion Clinic’s technology services group, said this in jest, the statement demonstrates the Roanoke, VA provider’s commitment to data governance and how that work put them on the path to information governance (IG).

According to Marlow, data governance is the discipline of providing structured processes and enforcing accountability for the proper creation and usage of data assets to best meet the needs of the entire organization.

Carilion’s IG program, which began in 2011, has its roots in the data governance and IT governance programs it began implementing in 2008 when it went live with an electronic health record (EHR) for the first time.

Dr. Stephen Morgan, MD, Carilion’s senior vice president and chief medical information officer, said they rushed to get into the accountable care organization (ACO) game and collect as much data as possible—but this created a problem.

“I hadn’t heard of data governance at that point, but the more we got into it, the more we recognized the quality of our data really wasn’t where we thought it was. For example, we had multiple definitions for length of stay. We moved so fast nobody thought to standardize it,” Morgan said. “So we brought in a consultant. Forward thinking people said, ‘We’ve got to do something.’”

Carilion then started a three-tiered data governance program, which led to an IT governance program, and eventually IG. Carilion views IG as the intersection of data governance, IT governance, and security governance. Their own official definition of IG is “IG is the holistic oversight of all information created or shared both (internally and externally) using any method or format, but primarily focuses on the use of technology enabled interactions.”

HIM’s Role at Carilion

Cindy Phelps, RHIA, Carilion’s director of health information management (HIM), explained how much education was needed organization wide to implement IG at Carilion—including the formation of multidisciplinary committees and teaching the basics of protecting PHI to every arm of the organization.

“Security data governance is a squeaky wheel because I bring that forward all the time,” Phelps said. “Our organization realized there were issues with all the requests, such a research requests, quality requests, studies, IT, no controls on that. Wanted to create process management around that and opted to go to security data governance,” she said, adding that this led to the formation of a security data governance committee that reports up to the IG committee.

Marlow said their ideal is not to leave anyone out of IG discussions and duties—something necessary to meet their goal of driving value from high-quality data.

“We were trying not to be disruptive with data governance. People push back and say ‘I don’t have time for that.’ But I say you have to have time for that,” Marlow said.


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