For some hospitals, the decision to focus on data integrity occurred long before information governance (IG) was the new buzz phrase in healthcare, says Esther Tolentino, a health information management director working with a not-for-profit health system with facilities operating across four states.
The health system with which Tolentino works has IG roots as far back as 2009 when the passage of HITECH provided a natural foundation for collaboration between executives, business leaders, clinical staff, and technical teams. This set the wheels in motion for a formal IG program, says Tolentino.
“As the journey toward a functional, live electronic medical record was to commence, the need for a task force comprised of visionary leaders with a wealth of experience and proven talent was the obvious next step,” she says.
Tolentino shares three strategies to help organizations form an IG structure and keep the ball rolling:
1. Secure executive buy in from the beginning. “Executive support is not only critical, but essential,” she says. “Executive support must be active—not passive—to ensure the initiative stays on track. Executives also pave the way when road blocks are encountered and even press the gas pedal to get movement going at the desired pace. When participants know and realize that executive support is active, the team stays focused on the work.”
2. Make IG a collaborative effort. Tolentino suggests the following five steps when developing IG-related policies and procedures:
- A small task force of subject matter experts (SME) meets to create a first draft.
- The task force presents the policy to the larger IG steering committee.
- The IG steering committee reviews the policy and provides input. More than one revision/draft may be necessary.
- The IG committee finalizes the policy and stores it on the hospital’s intranet.
- Workforce stewards provide staff education regarding the policy.
Tolentino says it’s also important to identify a chairperson/moderator for IG committee meetings who can tactfully keep the group focused. This individual should possess project management skills and an upbeat personality to keep everyone engaged, she adds.
“In addition to the standing meeting, meet regularly outside of the larger group meetings where conversations have the opportunity to be more meaningful and specific—and so you can discuss and understand different perceptions, concerns, and barriers,” she says.
3. Evolve the program, as necessary. “Our IG structure has grown to match the services provided as well as to meet business needs,” she says. “We have more SMEs involved, and we also ensure that if a participant is unable to attend, he or she sends someone who can speak on his or her behalf.
Lisa A. Eramo is a freelance writer based in Rhode Island.
Interviewed for this article:
Esther Tolentino, RHIT, CHTS-IS, CHTS-PW, health system health information management director.