I recently had a chat with Linda Kloss, former CEO of AHIMA and President of Kloss Strategic Advisors, Inc, on her viewpoint on managing healthcare margins with information governance. In anticipation of an upcoming webinar with Health Data Management featuring Linda, as well as the highly anticipated National Health IT week (#NHITweek), below are Linda’s thoughts.
Reducing costs and managing eroding margins is top of mind for most in the healthcare C-Suite. Many initiatives are underway to reduce operating costs in advance of further reimbursement cuts and at risk contracting. Examples of ubiquitous short-term tactics include labor management, process redesign, documentation improvement, readmission and recovery audit loss avoidance. Longer-term initiatives are also in evidence including physician alignment, mergers and acquisitions, and value based contracting.
All of these initiatives share a fundamental reliance on having trusted information. Ironically, what is not yet on the margin management radar of most healthcare organizations is information governance (IG), an initiative to deliberately and holistically manage and improve the value of their information assets. IG is a formalized approach to improving organizational performance, reducing costs, and mitigating risks through effective information capture, management, and use to advance organizational goals. IG has been shown to directly reduce costs related for example to technology acquisition, data quality problems, and information retention. IG improves organizational performance because trusted information is available to support effective decision-making and improve communications. It improves legal and regulatory compliance, which also confers cost management benefits.
We know a lot more about the current state of IG thanks to the Cohasset Associates/AHIMA 2014 Information Governance in Healthcare Benchmarking White Paper. 
IG programs are less prevalent and less mature in healthcare organizations than is needed given the foundational importance of information to patient care and organizational performance. Most organizational have not established a comprehensive strategy for information governance though many suggest they will be doing so within the next 3 years. IG practices appear to be stronger in privacy and security than other aspects of IG because of the scope of regulations, yet there is plenty of evidence that even these areas are not where they should be.
Information management leaders should take the following 5 proactive steps to adopt IG now:
1. Introduce IG concepts and make them relevant to strategic initiatives and the priorities of key stakeholders. For example, engage CMIOs in a conversation about the value a more holistic approach to improving the information content in EHRs and patient portals. Engage CIOs in considering how to improve the assessment of technology in terms of the information content and information management and CFOs in cost savings and revenue potential by reducing the rework and delaying decisions due to data error.
2. Charter a multi-disciplinary IG steering group to lead the IG initiative. Healthcare organizations may transition an existing group, but it is important to scope this group to take in the key building blocks of IG which include information privacy and security, information integrity and quality, design and capture, access and use and lifecycle management. The IG steering group sets priorities that advance organizational goals.
3. Expand HIM to be enterprise in scope and to take in the range of critical types and forms of information. It is problematic to silo information management by information type or by organizational entity. IM must be system-wide in scope and must move beyond the medical record.
4. Measure and quantify improvements to demonstrate the increasing value of information assets. Use the cost savings to secure support for expanding your efforts. For example, early cost reductions might accrue through stepping up MPI error correction as a critical element of the organization’s master data, implementing a rock solid process for correcting errors in EHR and patient portals. It may involve redesigning records management using a centralized offsite storage model.
5. Step up enterprise capabilities including effective information policy management, information audit and metrics, use of information management technology and process improvement and workforce development.
Continuing piecemeal information asset management and delaying IG is counterproductive to today’s healthcare imperative of managing margins.
Follow these ongoing conversations at #IGNow, #NHITweek.
Follow Linda Kloss on Twitter @kloss_linda
Register for the upcoming Health Data Management Webinar, Sep 17, 2014, 2pm Eastern, “Best Practice Strategies to Accelerate Health Information Governance”, featuring Linda Kloss.http://www.ahima.org/topics/infogovernance