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IG Matters


Achieving the eight information governance principles.

AHIMA has clearly defined the eight IG principles -- what, why, who -- but a discussion of how to develop each one has just begun. This article is the first in a series that will delve deeper into ways to achieve each principle. First up, accountability.

Understanding the Accountability Principle
Simply stated, accountability in IG means responsibility for establishing proof trusted information. According to AHIMA's IG principles, an accountable senior leader should be formally designated as responsible for overall IG program development and implementation. With collaborative leadership in place, achieving accountability encompasses the following IG directives: 

  • Establish an IG structure for program development and implementation.
  • Document and approve policies and procedures to guide its implementation.
  • Remediate identified issues.
  • Enable auditing as a means of demonstrating the organization is meeting its obligations to both internal and external parties.

SEE ALSO: New HIM Roles in Information Governance

Engaging a Senior Sponsor
The best way to secure sponsorship from senior leaders is to show the business value of IG as a strategic asset -- how it helps the organization achieve its goals and strategies. Here are three ways to build the case for IG: 

  • Assess current policies and procedures to identify gaps and deficiencies, and then set priorities. A thorough assessment will give senior leadership a comprehensive view of the existing landscape.
  • Show the business value of trusted information-quality of care, cost reduction, compliance, improved patient outcomes, risk mitigation, accurate reimbursement.
  • Seek opportunities for collaboration. Participate in board meetings, intern programs, planning activities. Identify a mentor-CFO, CEO, head of legal or compliance, or other strong leader in the organization.  

information governance AccountabilityAchieving Accountability Through Collaboration
AHIMA advocates a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach with input from all stakeholders, business process owners and domain experts. Accountability depends on clearly defined roles and responsibilities for developing policies, implementing technology and improving practices that build trust in information. Here are eight steps to help achieve enterprise-wide accountability: 

  1. Align strategic planning with IG requirements. Assemble a multidisciplinary team for strategic planning -- setting priorities and goals. Make sure all players are represented and know the ultimate goal. Without a strategic plan, achieving goals aligned with IG principles will be difficult.
  2. Identify regulatory and legal requirements and get buy-in. Many stewards must come together to achieve organizational goals. The healthcare environment typically has pockets of stewardship in various departments that manage source systems. Consistent governance is critical.  
  3. Establish relevant standards across systems. Transferring information from one system to another requires standards that support accurate communication across systems. Make sure source documentation definitions are consistent.
  4. Create and implement organizational policies and procedures. Once standards are set, develop and document enterprise-wide policies and procedures to support your decisions. Best practices include consistency around data and collection, use, retention and destruction processes -- throughout the information cycle.
  5. Provide multidisciplinary training and education. Secure buy-in regarding all standards, polices and procedures. Changing the way things have always been done can be a challenge. Show benefits for various departments and for the organization as a whole.
  6. Define stewardship roles to achieve common goals. Stewards involved with various source systems should assume a stewardship role for the entire enterprise. Define roles and determine who is responsible for achieving goals for all systems-and ensure consistency in the process.
  7. Perform compliance monitoring, auditing and reporting. Promote program awareness of practices, policies and procedures. Provide ongoing education to ensure information is properly protected, accessed, stored, retained, released and dispositioned. Report audits to appropriate governing bodies.
  8. Invest in IT resources that meet enterprise-wide goals. IT must support established standards, policies and procedures aimed at achieving the organization's accountability goals. A collaborative, centralized approach to IT decisions will serve the needs of all departments.  

Building Trust in Information
Organizations need to know the "how" of IG -- beginning with accountability. Trust in information is the heart of IG. The accountability principle embodies the trustworthiness required to ensure records are maintained and available as needed. In today's high-risk environment, accountability practices are essential to proper auditing and program improvement to support enterprise-wide goals.

In terms of trust, accountability and transparency are closely related. IG Matters will focus next on the principle of transparency-its role in compliance and achieving ethical use of information.

Celebrating a Successful IG Month
AHIMA recently posted an announcement thanking all who participated in Information Governance month. Visit their new landing page ( to see a summary of activities, numerous downloads and additional resources including the benchmarking whitepaper, principles document, first IG infographic and more. The time for healthcare to adopt IG has come!

Rita Bowen is senior vice president of HIM and privacy officer at HealthPort. She can be reached at

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