The health IT industry may be very complex but common standards – especially those of certified EHR technology – tend to elucidate guidelines that vendors and providers need to follow in order to successfully attest to meaningful use requirements and gain financial incentives under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.
An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) further explains the history of health information technology (IT) standards. Beginning in the 1950s, these standards moved past vital signs and captured data related to clinical morbidity, which allowed for improved clinical decision support among physicians. Additionally, the health IT standards led to health outcomes research and the development of quality improvement strategies.
However, as time went on, health IT standards expanded and led to overlapping, competing, and ineffective guidelines. With the adoption of computers and electronic records, the divergence only increased. Nonetheless, more recently, there have been initiatives aimed at coordinating and harmonizing disparate standards such as the Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine—Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT).
Electronic patient records have brought more complexities to the healthcare industry besides diverging health IT standards. According to the Journal of AHIMA, at the National Conference on Managing Electronic Records taking place in Chicago, Illinois this May, panelists spoke during the keynote session about the need for information governance.
Specifically, health information management (HIM) professionals will be the ones to handle information governance across their medical facilities. Panelists explained that interdisciplinary collaboration throughout a healthcare organization is key to governing medical information adequately. One of the vital tasks for this collaboration is to persuade the business unit that funding an information governing program has significant return on investment.
“One of the strongest ROIs is ‘how much time will this save us,’” Panelist moderator and Contoural President and CEO Mark Diamond stated at the conference. “A good information governance program can save four hours per person per week [of time spent looking up health data or records], but that’s a ‘squishy’ ROI. Come up with four or five ROIs.”
The panelists continued by clarifying that effective information governance can bring about less time spent on a delegated task, a reduction in litigation risk and lower legal fees, and lower costs with regard to staff turnover.
Some of the key improvements that successful information governance programs will deliver include strong privacy policies, a reduction in the time spent looking for data, well-managed records and record-keeping, and a “defensible disposition of records.”
“Your mission should be maximizing the value of your information,” panelist Kenneth J. Withers, deputy executive director of The Sedona Conference, said at the keynote session. “You can have all the metrics you want, but what’s going to make the difference in selling data governance and information governance to CEOs is maximizing the value of information.”
As time passes and patient health data expands, it grows more important than in prior years to develop effective information governance initiatives and follow notable health IT standards.