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The Politics of Health Care

Achieving the Eight Information Governance (IG) Principles

Published April 3, 2015 9:56 AM by Robby Chakler

[Editor's note: the following blog post was written by  Rita Bowen, MA, RHIA, CHPS, SSGB, senior vice president of HIM and privacy officer.]

AHIMA's Information Governance Principles for Healthcare (IGPHC) provides a comprehensive framework for managing and governing trusted information. The eight principles form the foundation for a maturity model to help organizations determine how to proceed with an effective IG program.

This article is the first in a series that will discuss key steps to achieve each principle-starting with accountability.  

Viewing Accountability as a Valued Strategic Asset

Accountability in IG means responsibility for establishing stewardship of trusted information. According to AHIMA's principles, an accountable senior leader should be formally designated as responsible for overall IG program development and implementation. The senior leader is accountable for ensuring the IG program is aligned with organizational goals and strategies, and for securing appropriate resources to support the program.

Healthcare executives must understand their responsibility as stewards of information that enables organizational strategies and priorities-quality of care, cost reduction, compliance, improved patient outcomes, risk mitigation, accurate reimbursement. Accountability is central to the business value of IG as a strategic asset-how it helps the organization achieve its goals and strategies.

To realize the full benefits of information governance, AHIMA recommends:

  • An accountability framework and decision rights to ensure the effective use of information, enterprise-wide
  • The essential standards, rules and guidelines for functioning in an increasingly electronic environment
  • The defined processes, skills and tools to manage information throughout its entire lifecycle, as a critical business asset

Achieving Accountability through Collaboration

AHIMA advocates a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach with input from all stakeholders, business process owners and domain experts. Senior leaders can benefit from collaboration with health information management (HIM) directors to assess current policies and procedures, identify gaps and deficiencies, and set priorities.

Through collaborative leadership, 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.

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. Create a multidisciplinary team to guide 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 best practices. 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.

AHIMA's principles also emphasize the importance of helping the workforce understand how to implement IG practices. Program policies and procedures must be clearly documented, approved and communicated through ongoing training that reinforces compliance with standardized practices.

Assuring Trust in Information

Trust in information is the essence of IG. Accountability builds the trustworthiness required to ensure records are properly governed for auditing and program improvement to support enterprise-wide goals. The future of every healthcare organization depends on it.

Additional IG resources including AHIMA's benchmarking whitepaper, principles document, first IG infographic and more are available at

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



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