The Healthcare IG Imperative

Last Updated: July 23, 2019By

Medical mistakes kill over 250,000 people each year in the U.S.

It is the third leading cause of death overall, behind heart disease and cancer, according to a study by doctors at Johns Hopkins. These numbers are certainly low, since they do not include deaths at nursing homes, surgery centers, and in-home care settings.

The United States has the most expensive healthcare in the world: the most advanced equipment, the most advanced medicines, the best-trained doctors—yet in a recent study of healthcare quality the U.S. came in dead last out of 11 civilized nations.  The U.K., Switzerland and Sweden topped the list.

The U.S. healthcare problem is not due to poor training, inferior equipment, inferior medicines, or lack of financial resources. No, the problem is likely primarily a failure to get the right information to the right people at the right time; that is, caregivers must have accurate, current clinical information to do their jobs properly.

This is an information governance (IG) issue that has life or death consequences. It can be fixed, but healthcare professionals must gain the necessary education and tools, collaborate with experts and each other, and gain executive management support for IG programs.

Across the pond, the issues facing the United Kingdom’s government-funded National Health Service (NHS) are somewhat different, where IG has been an area of focus to ensure data quality and protect patient data for more than fifteen years. Although IG was mentioned in journals and scholarly articles decades ago, the UK is arguably the home of healthcare IG, and perhaps the IG discipline. Could this be the reason the UK’s leads the world in healthcare quality? Certainly, it must be a major contributing factor.

Since 2002 each UK healthcare organization has been tasked with completing the IG Toolkit, managed by NHS Digital for the UK Department of Health. Although the IG Toolkit has evolved over the years its core has remained constant. However, in April 2018 it was replaced with a new tool, the Data Security and Protection Toolkit, based around 10 National Data Security Standards that have been formulated by the UK’s National Data Guardian.[/glossary_exclude]


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About the Author: Robert Smallwood

Robert F. Smallwood, MBA, CIP, IGP, is a thought leader in Information Governance, having published seven books on IG topics, including the world's first IG textbook which is being used in many graduate university programs as well as to guide corporate IG training programs.