The threat from hackers, along with other cyber security threats, can compromise consumer, patient and other critical data. Healthcare, like every sector of our economy, has been under pressure to improve security and protect consumer data. Information governance is a key strategy when it comes to improving information security, but the benefits of information governance in healthcare go beyond security.
You read about data breaches almost every day. With new innovations and technologies on the rise, healthcare organizations must be prepared to manage and protect information about their patients and clients.
Healthcare patient records are particularly at risk because of their value on the black market. Indeed, journalists and security experts debate whether the value of a patient healthcare record is more or less than that of a personal financial record. The former contains critical health histories; the latter includes information such as credit history.
But there’s no doubt that healthcare providers—like payers—should adopt well crafted information governance (IG) policies to help protect patient data. Indeed, when companies have good information management habits—when they purge unnecessary or duplicative data or store little-used information away from business systems—they create less “surface” for the bad guys to attack.
The lifecycle of information often takes data away from the four walls where it was first created. Information may be shared and exchanged with external partners and other healthcare organizations. To preserve the integrity and accuracy of information that is going in and out of the organization, all entities should practice information governance as they handle and exchange data.
A great place to start for healthcare organizations of all sizes and complexities is AHIMA’s Information Governance Adoption Model (IGAM). The model scores and assesses healthcare organizations using 10 information governance competencies. These competencies include key maturity markers that identify critical requirements for a robust information governance program.
For payers, good information governance habits help reduce the severity of breaches, which means financial impacts can also be decreased. Costs related to a breach can include fines, payments for credit monitoring, the cost of litigation, and more.
Information governance can also help reduce the cost of healthcare. For example, some payers have adopted information governance tools to help their high-risk members with chronic diseases. Often these members could benefit from regular care (like nutrition counseling for diabetes), but have not utilized the benefits they deserve. When chronic diseases are better managed, long-term costs of care are decreased.
But of all the benefits of information governance in healthcare, there’s another more important motive. That motive is to improve patient health, and thus patient outcomes.
By analyzing how members utilize preventive services and by focusing on those members that under-utilize these services, payers can target outreach to particular members. The resulting increase in regular preventive care greatly reduces the frequency and severity of acute (and expensive) episodes associated with chronic diseases. The overall result: better outcomes for the member and lower operational cost for the payer. Believe it or not, in some cases I’ve even seen premiums come down.
Good information governance helps nurses, therapists, doctors, and other staff provide better care for their patients by having a more holistic view of the information being used. With information governance, patient records are more accurate and can be used to make trusted, timely patient care decisions. At a time when the trend in healthcare in the United States is moving away from fee-for-service towards value-based care, better outcomes and patient safety improve when information about patients is better managed and used more strategically.
There’s also the patient/customer service angle to consider. Good information management enables coordinated care between medical specialties. Why fill out the same form as the patient “travels” from a family practice to a specialist and then to outpatient therapy? An ideal solution would be to use one general, universal medical, drugs and insurance form.
Mature information governenance programs have standardized processes, integrated systems, and the means to provide better outcomes. Healthcare communities need to implement strategies to share and exchange patient information with each other, on an as needed basis, to avoid duplicative efforts and enable a more coordinated healthcare environment for patients to receive care.
Several key initiatives such as interoperability, population health, and payment reform are driving the way the healthcare industry operates. Healthcare organizations of all types, including hospitals, physician practices, health information exchanges, payers, vendors, and more should practice information governance to help meet the demands of the shifting healthcare industry.
More about information governance in healthcare will be posted in the coming weeks.
If you’re interested in viewing a short video-blog about Information Security in Healthcare, click here.
Or you can read a blog by my colleague, Joe Shepley: Overcoming Information Governance Roadblocks in Healthcare.