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EHRs need new governance standards to excel

Rachel Wheeler Archive
The push toward electronic patient records in healthcare has changed speed but been constantly progressing. According to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the technology needs a strong set of governance rules to ensure its integration is successful. While the benefits of a system that could synchronize patient histories and information across the world are clear, such a program could cause serious problems if afflicted with data quality and management problems, a vital consideration with lives literally on the line.

Call for governance
AHIMA's insistence that the health organization needs new governance and coding standards is not new. The organization stated that it has been calling for such a development for several decades. The latest round of promotion was spurred by recent concerns about a possible fraud epidemic in the medical field.

The new governance standard, according to the AHIMA statement, would incorporate multiple elements of file security. Some regulations would ensure the data is held securely and others would exist to protect patients themselves. The rules would also help make the records hard to fabricate, to fight back against fraud and allay worries that the digital switch would make criminal activity easier.

"Unified data governance principles will help promote accuracy and consistency and reduce ambiguity," said Lynne Thomas Gordon, CEO of AHIMA. "AHIMA stands ready to work with HHS, CMS and other groups to establish the guidelines that will accurately and fairly represent performance and outcomes of care. Data governance and data integrity have been and will be a critical part of AHIMA’s strategic plan, and we will continue to lead the discussions and the solutions developed in this field."

Usage cases
There are already new practical methods emerging for the usage of electronic health records. According to Healthcare IT News, NorthShore University HealthStystem research found that use of EHRs can prevent the overuse of antibiotics by providing more accurate and current patient information that is currently available.

According to the source, the study's authors found that constantly-updated health data on outbreaks of contagious diseases can help physicians predict new cases based on location and symptoms and know whether or not to administer antibiotics. As is common in healthcare, removing a superfluous step from the process could be helpful for all involved.