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New HIM Roles in Information Governance

HIM professionals are leading the transformation in healthcare information monitoring.

Healthcare is at a crossroads as new technologies and value-based models drive demand for trusted information. As a result, HIM must respond to unprecedented challenges and new opportunities to guide effective information governance, i.e., the process of monitoring healthcare information throughout its life cycle.

HIM professionals have the skills, experience and expertise to lead the transition from traditional HIM to enterprise-wide information governance that improves quality of care and organizational performance.

To that end, AHIMA's Information Governance Principles for Healthcare set the stage for HIM to step forward.

In her new book, Implementing Health Information Governance: Lessons from the Field, Linda Kloss, MA, RHIA, FAHIMA, describes effective governance as more than a set of rules. "It is a dynamic process focused on improving organizational performance through use of trusted information. With the right case for change and sponsorship, information governance drives important change, but it needs a catalyst for change and a change agent." 

Becoming Catalysts for Change

The era of information governance in healthcare brings expanded new roles for HIM throughout their organizations. With a clear understanding of AHIMA's principles, HIM professionals can be the catalysts for change. They are well aware of laws and regulations that govern health information. And they understand the value of accurate, complete and timely information to overall organizational performance. Emerging roles fall within key areas that advance information governance:

  • Enterprise information governance leadership
  • Health informatics
  • Release of information
  • Compliance and risk management
  • Revenue cycle management
  • Privacy and security
  • Health information exchange
  • Data quality and integrity
  • Patient information advocacy
  • Knowledge management

HIM professionals have an ideal opportunity to envision and redefine their roles, affirming their value as the stewards of trusted information in today's world of information governance. They must demonstrate the vital importance of HIM knowledge and leadership to achieving business effectiveness and competitiveness. For example, HIM will play a key role in the centralization and standardization of policies and practices required for successful information governance.

Strengthening Competencies Required for New Roles

The transition to an electronic environment means major change in HIM staff competencies. All aspects of HIM are affected by the advent of information management technologies-EHRs, computer-assisted coding, speech recognition, and more to come.

"Today's HIM staff consists of more highly skilled knowledge workers performing higher value work supported by technology," states Kloss. "For HIM, the focus on improving competencies and skills through formal and continuing education is a priority for the discipline."

Meeting the current and future demands of new roles will also require multidisciplinary collaboration and executive support for implementing the principles of information governance. The best way to engage executives is to identify their concerns and priorities. According to the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), the top concerns of CEOs include the following, ranked from highest to lowest:

  • Financial challenges
  • Healthcare reform implementation
  • Government mandates
  • Patient safety and quality
  • Care for the uninsured
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Physician-hospital relations
  • Population management
  • Technology
  • Personnel shortages
  • Implementing accountable care

Targeting areas that need strengthening is especially important for HIM as their functions are increasingly embedded throughout healthcare organizations. The true value of information governance as a strategic asset depends on the leadership of highly capable HIM professionals to ensure access to trusted information.

Making the Case for Information Governance

Information must be properly managed to ensure optimal value. HIM is perfectly positioned to guide the establishment of an enterprise-wide information governance program. With knowledge of AHIMA's principles, HIM professionals must help educate all disciplines regarding privacy and security, risk management, data integrity-essential building blocks of trust in information. As collaborative leaders, they should be involved in critical business decisions regarding new technology, clinical informatics, and financial processes that affect the quality and integrity of health information.

Regardless of individual roles or job titles, HIM professionals should invest in making the case for information governance-the overarching role that affects all others. According to Kloss, "Organizing for information governance begins with clarity in vision, mission, and a charter and it always requires support from senior leaders. Securing support from senior leaders requires demonstrating how this initiative enables the organization to achieve its goals and strategies."

The need for making the case is clear, but getting started can feel daunting. Where to begin? Here are five strategies for charting the course:
  • Assess the current information environment and identify priorities to help build the case for information governance. Take an inventory of policies, procedures and systems for capturing, processing, delivering and storing data. A thorough assessment will give senior leadership a broad view of the existing landscape.
  • Secure executive support by showing the business value of data integrity. Focus on strategic goals and priorities including quality of care, cost reduction, compliance, improved patient outcomes, risk mitigation, and accurate reimbursement. Emphasize the financial impact of poor quality data.
  • Engage a multidisciplinary team of all stakeholders including representatives from HIM, IT, compliance, C-suite, revenue cycle, legal and risk management to promote partnership for change. Share pain points, insights, strengths, priorities and vulnerabilities. Develop best practices to ensure data integrity.
  • Identify opportunities for collaboration that enhance visibility. Participate in board meetings, intern programs and events. Find a mentor, e.g., the CFO, CEO, compliance officer, or other strong leader in the organization.
  • Create a plan for implementing the AHIMA principles. HIM professionals have been performing information governance for decades. Now, they must use their unique competencies to advance enterprise-wide information governance.

Shaping a New Direction

As the future unfolds for HIM professionals, their unique competencies and leadership will be essential for governing the accuracy, accessibility, delivery and integrity of data. They must prepare for progressive roles that contribute value to their organizations through effective information governance that ensures cost savings, risk reduction, and quality care. 2015 will be a year of transition for HIM-from tradition to transformation.

Rita Bowen is senior vice president of HIM and privacy officer at HealthPort. She can be reached at rita.bowen@healthport.com.

This article was one of our most popular of 2015. See the full list here.

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