Given the complexity of the healthcare industry, IG is emerging as a useful tool for securing patients’ electronic health records (EHR) and controlling who and what accesses these records. Crucially, IG also is helping to manage the explosion of electronic information in the healthcare industry. For example, EHRs replaced traditional paper records. In their place are computer terminals or tablets that healthcare professionals access while consulting with patients. These e-records do not stay in that doctor’s office; instead, they are in a database managed and controlled by IT professionals. If the patient then visits another doctor, the new doctor has access to the same EHR. If the patient then visits the first doctor again, the electronic notes from the second doctor are there for review. This represents a specific chain of custody. Consequently, IG helps secure, control, and optimize this electronic information, helping organizations to meet regulatory requirements to avoid HIPAA violations, fines, and sanctions.
Leveraging a healthcare IG framework, the healthcare industry can better manage reforms that have been part of the federal government’s push to keep the healthcare industry focused on keeping people healthy. Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement payments are now tied to the term “meaningful use,” defined in terms of EHR technology as improving the quality of care. In other words, the healthcare industry must show that such technology helps patients as per guidelines enacted under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. A healthcare-focused IG framework helps managers and leaders in the industry define meaningful use and make it a strategic focus of improving care.
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) defines IG as “an organization wide framework for managing information throughout its lifecycle and for supporting the organization’s strategy, operations, regulatory, legal, risk, and environmental requirements.” Much like other industries, the healthcare industry utilizes electronic data for strategic purposes. An active IG program helps to govern and control electronic information and access to it.