In the early 70’s, Tony Randall and Jack Klugman teamed up as the Odd Couple: two divorcees who were polar opposites sharing an apartment together. Felix Unger, the neurotic neatnik (played by Randall), and Oscar Madison, the cigar-smoking slob (Klugman’s character), made television history as they learned to accept and embrace their differences, while keeping the audience in stiches.
As we celebrate National Health IT Week (#NHITWeek), and as I put the finishing touches on my Information Governance (IG) presentation for this year’s AHIMA conference (#AHIMA, #IGNow), I got to thinking: are HIM and IT the Odd Couple of IG? Surely with the explosive growth of electronic information in healthcare and the more stringent requirements to protect the privacy and security of patient information, both functions will play an increasingly important role as organizations adopt the foundational tenants of Information Governance. As critical stakeholders with prominent roles in both the cross-functional Steering Committee and hands-on working groups, can these two organizations, which have historically been entrenched in two separate worlds (HIM in paper and IT in digital), converge and leverage their differences as key drivers of enterprise-governance? YES. YES. YES.
Traditionally, IT has been focused on IT governance – the policies and processes to ensure the effective evaluation, selection, prioritization and funding of competing IT investments and were primarily responsible for system implementation and maintenance. Success was largely driven on extracting measurable business benefits from these IT investments. And, while the focus on IT systems and how they interoperate and perform will continue in the new world of Information Governance, IT staffs need to also focus on the information flowing within those IT systems. They need to provide the leadership for the proper protection and authentication of data and its availability for use, preservation and disposition.
So how can HIM help IT with this new and expanding role? Well, with their unique understanding of information content and records, information flow, user needs and compliance, Health Information Management staffs are a valuable resource and partner for IT. And, clearly, IT can learn from the previous challenges encountered by HIM staffs to avoid promulgating the same redundancies and inefficiencies often found in paper record-keeping, by:
- Breaking down the silos of electronic health information residing in disparate systems and facilities
- Creating a dynamic inventory and understanding of data sources, characteristics, uses, access requirements and information flow
- Establishing and enforcing consistent operational processes and policies that address integrity, accessibility, efficacy and security of data throughout its life cycle.
While on the surface, HIM and IT may seem like the Odd Couple of IG, together they can focus on and successfully tackle the big picture issues of managing information of all types and forms, enterprise-wide.
Follow the conversation at #NHITweek and #IGNow.