The American Health Information Management Association, the professional association of health information managers, is launching an initiative to promote information governance as a way to improve the quality of health care data.

AHMIA’s chief executive Lynne Thomas Gordon outlined at this week’s HIMSS conference in Orlando the group’s effort, which she said is aimed at ensuring health information is accurate and actionable – which is a big challenge for healthcare providers.

“The purpose of information governance is to have information we can trust,” she said.

Also See: Evaluation Criteria for Data Governance Tools

Information governance, in short, sets policies and procedures for handling each piece of data that an enterprise handles to ensure it’s accurate, accessible and secure.

The different ways something as simple as a patient’s name can be entered into a medical record illustrates the problem, Thomas Gordon said. For instance, a patient by the name of Jane Jones could be entered into one file under "Jane Jones", another under "Mrs. Jones," and yet another under "J. Jones".

The effects of poor data quality can be disastrous. “Quality health care depends on the availability of quality data. Poor documentation, inaccurate data, and insufficient communication can result in errors and adverse incidents. Inaccurate data threatens patient safety and can lead to increased costs, inefficiencies, and poor financial performance,” according to a report, titled “Assessing and Improving EHR Data Quality,” that AHIMA published last year.

Among the efforts that Thomas Gordon said AHIMA is embarking on to promote data quality:

- Working on an industry benchmarking survey to determine where health care as in industry is in terms of information governance.

- Planning to develop a self-assessment tool so health-related organizations can determine how well their own data governance efforts stack up.

- Developing thought-leadership programs and an educational whitepaper series on the topic of information governance.

- Planning to craft and provide policies and procedures around healthcare data governance.

“I feel we can truly make a difference,” said Thomas Gordon.