3 Lessons in Implementing Healthcare Data Governance

by | Oct 31, 2017 | Healthcare

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Do you ever procrastinate or delay doing something you know is good for you? Of course, you do. We all do. It appears healthcare organizations do, too, when it comes to instituting data governance. A recent survey finds many hospitals are struggling to implement such systems.

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But just as a nudge from a friend can help us conquer personal procrastination, organizations that are stalled can learn from peers. Today we look at lessons from Covenant Healthcare, a healthcare system that recently set up its data governance.

Many hospitals are struggling with data governance

Within healthcare, data governance is both relatively new and quickly growing. In August 2017, Dimensional Insight surveyed 104 members of a professional organization for CIOs and other senior HCIT leaders about their data governance efforts. Overall, the survey revealed low maturity but big intentions.

The numbers tell the story:

  • Fewer than half (44%) of the healthcare organizations surveyed have implemented an enterprise-wide data governance capacity.
  • The remaining 56% have no governance or an incomplete process.
  • Most of the organizations that have implemented data governance did so recently.
  • Four out of five (82%) are less than three years into the process.

The survey also found that three-quarters of healthcare organizations that have not adopted data governance plan to do so soon. In fact, 49% say they will implement a system in the next year and another 29% in the next three years. What can all these hospitals and healthcare systems learn from those that have already put data governance into place? For insights, we talked to Ken Arnold, analytics manager for Covenant HealthCare.

Covenant HealthCare is an independent healthcare system in Saginaw, Michigan. With more than 4,600 employees, 643 acute care licensed beds, and 560 physicians on medical staff, it is the largest healthcare employer in its region. In 2017, Covenant adopted Dimensional Insight’s Diver Platform along with Measure Factory, a business rules engine that provides automated data governance and standard definitions of measures. Covenant first used Measure Factory to assess readmissions. Which brings us to Ken’s first lesson.

Validating data

Covenant quickly learned the importance of validating data input in order to produce reliable, useful output. The initial information Measure Factory generated about readmissions seemed implausible. So Covenant’s IT department went back to the source – the EHR system, Epic. The IT team demonstrated that this implausible readmission data was exactly the information that had been entered into Epic in the first place! This prompted Covenant to examine the Epic workflow and improve the way users input information. In looking at its readmissions numbers, Covenant discovered both the importance of validating data and how that validation process itself can uncover workflow hiccups.

Single source of truth

Ken’s experience at Covenant also highlights the benefits of creating a single source of the truth. An organization must commit to creating shared definitions and measures and then applying them consistently across the enterprise. The process involves engaging different stakeholders and holding discussions about criteria, inclusions, exclusions, etc. The pay-offs are huge. First, consistent definitions and measures create enterprise-wide confidence in the data. Second, once definitions and measures are agreed upon, an organization saves time by using them again and again.  “We want to keep it simple, and Dimensional Insight gives us that,” Ken says.

Leading cultural change

Officially, Ken leads Covenant’s business intelligence group. But unofficially, he says he is an internal salesman, promoting the organization’s new analytic capabilities and slowly driving a cultural change toward data literacy. “We’ve piqued the interest,” he says. “What I have noticed is people are now aware how to ask the questions about what data is available to help make informed decisions.” In 2018, Ken plans to work with departments to help them understand their data better and deliver models they can use to interact with it.

What’s next

In addition to examining readmissions, Covenant plans to use Measure Factory to assess patient falls and the hospital’s supply operations. The finance department is “very excited” about the platform’s potential, which may eventually be used to learn more about patient experience and employee engagement. “We’re pretty much full steam ahead on anything Measure Factory, anything Dimensional Insight,” Ken says. “Let’s get it in there, let’s utilize that, because that’s the way to go and it’s making a difference.”

Learn more

  • For more on Dimensional Insight’s survey of healthcare CIOs, click here.
  • For more on Covenant HealthCare’s experience with Measure Factory, click here.

Ready for a test drive of our healthcare analytics software?

Laura Remington

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