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Before a healthcare organization can exchange patient information with another entity, it needs a sound enterprise information management (EIM) strategy and foundation in place.
"Data is an asset that needs to be managed from the top of the organization and throughout the organization, which requires education and awareness of its use," said Carol Cassell, client services executive for CTG Health Solutions, an IT solutions and services company.
An EIM strategy includes data governance. Not every healthcare organization, however, has a good data governance program in place, which oftentimes is a result of C-suite executives not fully realizing the importance of the business ownership of data decisions, according to Mike Garzone, solutions director, advanced technology CTG Health Solutions. Data management gets defaulted to the IT department, where data is often managed within siloes. "People are still trying to get their arms around their data," Garzone said.
Good data governance and controls will enable healthcare organizations to manage the quality of data for proper identification of provider and patient. "If I'm not providing the right data elements [to uniquely identify patients and providers], if we're not all on the same page with how we're serving that information up, it can open the door to data breach," Garzone said.
In addition to privacy and security, data governance is also important to ensure data integrity, quality, reliability, accessibility, and usability by the key stakeholders who are sharing patient information, Cassell said. Healthcare organizations need trusted data – clean, accurate and timely – to make business decisions. Large hospitals and integrated delivery networks (IDNs) that acquire facilities oftentimes will find that duplicate data is being managed in different systems at different times, resulting in unreliable data. Data may be interfaced, but not in an integrated way, Garzone pointed out. "That's the underlying importance behind not just data governance but enterprise information management," he said. "We know the lineage [of the data], and we know how it starts and we know how it's being used; therefore, we know we can make an intelligent decision."
Garzone and Cassell laid out four recommendations for developing an EIM strategy – establishing a foundation upon which to make sound business decisions:
- Build a strong governance foundation by getting the support and involvement of C-suite executives, business people, clinicians and physicians. "This is an executive-level initiative," Garzone said. Start at the top and get business folks involved, but also engage clinicians and physicians so the right clinical decisions are being made as well.
- Start small – don't try to boil the ocean on day one. "There is a lot of data in the organization," said Garzone. "Pick out something that is a winnable first step." With a data governance foundation in place, a healthcare organization knows who the owners of the data are, where the data is and what the impact is when decisions are made. From that point, healthcare organizations can develop an approach to, for example, ICD-10 migration or one of the core Stage 1 Meaningful Use measures to demonstrate the value of the initiatives the organization is undertaking.
- Get data into a usable format. It's not enough to report the data, Garzone pointed out. Data needs to be multi-dimensional; healthcare organizations need to build the right kind of data architecture – with the right dashboards, drill downs, data cubes or data malls – so that they are nimble and can make intelligent business decisions around the data. They should be able to "slice and dice" the data to best suite their business needs versus building a rigid structure that is only capable of doing specific reporting.
- Make the data as close to a real-time process as possible. While retrospective data is nice, having data in real time enables healthcare organizations to introduce change quickly and make an impact.