The Why of Information Governance, Part 2

Improving patient safety, quality of care and population health

As we continue to explore the why of information governance, based on Simon Sinek’s concept of the Golden Circle, it’s important to revisit the essential questions. What are the compelling reasons why IG is important? Why should we care about IG? What inspires a sense of urgency? Healthcare organizations need to be clear about their purpose-focusing on why they do what they do rather than articulating only the how and the what.

Medical Errors Create a Sense of Urgency

The ongoing impact of medical errors is central to the story we’re building around the Why of IG. As mentioned in our previous column, the number of preventable hospital errors has increased to 440,000-making medical errors the third leading cause of death in the United States.1 During a recent presentation, I cited several key statistics, including the fact that one in three patients admitted to the hospital will experience a medical error-wrong site, wrong surgery, wrong procedure, wrong labs. These and other errors, such as delayed diagnoses due to delayed test results, are occurring at an estimated rate of 40 times per week-costing tens of billions of dollars per year.

Such incidents prompted Brigham and Women’s Hospital to create a blog called “Safety Matters” as a way to engage the health system and the entire community in patient safety.2 The blog describes medical errors and near misses, with a review of what happened, what went wrong and what they are doing. This initiative is taking the patient safety component of IG seriously and setting the bar high for us all. Their efforts to promote transparency, accountability and ongoing education are aligned with the core principles of IG.

Copy Paste Functionality Contributes to Errors

Copying and pasting electronic information has also become an increasingly dangerous practice. In a recent survey , 89% of physicians indicated they copy and paste when writing daily progress notes, and 78% said they almost always or mostly copied text. Making decisions based on incomplete or outdated information can lead to life-threatening errors.

For example, the case of a patient on Coumadin (blood thinner) who bled to death during surgery because the medication list was not copied and pasted into the record. Coumadin should have been discontinued a number of days prior to surgery to avoid excessive bleeding.

IG Supports Success of IT Initiatives

At the HIMSS16 Conference and Exhibition, AHIMA’s Deborah Green, RHIA, MBA, executive vice president, chief innovation and global services officer, and Kathy Downing, senior director IG Advisors, presented a compelling session on the importance of IG to the success of IT initiatives.

In their presentation, Taking a Pulse on Information Governance in Healthcare, they emphasized how benefits were realized for the value of IT. Making the case for IG requires focusing on the why-the benefits and values.4These include:

  • Cost savings related to lifecycle management and medical records storage.
  • Patient engagement–ensuring patients have the tools for due diligence, to research options and determine what’s best for them. Portals allow patients, caregivers and advocates to be more actively engaged throughout the care continuum. Secure patient interactions and trusted information are essential.
  • Reliable data and information to support population health-empowering people to help health systems deliver optimal care and promote healthy communities. Implementing enterprise-wide IG practices is vital to realizing the most value from your EHR-ensuring reliable, timely and accurate information that supports data integrity.
  • Private, secure data and information-risk management, breach prevention. Addressing increased cyber security threats requires IG practices and advanced technology solutions to constantly monitor intrusions/suspicious activity in real time.
  • Information available where and when it is needed for treatment-making sure employees have what they need to make sound decisions about treatment. Organizations need to balance the sense of urgency related to the external impact on patients-patient safety, care, satisfaction-with the internal impact on employees. Healthcare professionals need tools, education and support to do their jobs well. All too often they can’t do their best because we don’t give them accurate, timely information.

Making Good on Our Promises

The why of IG needs to be more compelling and inspirational. Especially since the desired outcome of IG is to make good on promises around population health, patient safety, and so much more to achieve outcomes that result in healthy people, living healthy lives in healthy communities. Every family has a story about health data. The healthcare of every individual and family is the reason why IG matters.

When we implement technology and IG practices to ensure data integrity, it’s critically important to remember the person the data represents and the digital footprints we leave on that person. This is the WHY we want to hear organizations articulate.



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