However, the AAMC team has developed a data governance program that probably represents best practice in the industry. In fact, they view programmatic analytics governance and data governance as two sides of the same coin. Mr. Lehr explains, “We use some fuzzy terminology across our organization. When we say Data Governance, we really mean program governance and data governance. Our Data Stewardship Council consists of… an enterprise-wide representative group that is able to look at all the priorities that we have. And that rolls up to our Analytics Governance Council which…consists of our CEO’s direct reports.”
Before the first meeting of the Data Stewardship Council, the AAMC team built an on-line data dictionary with a Google-like search capability. They then took the remarkable step of devoting 3 analysts full-time for about 3 months to back-populate the dictionary with all of the data elements already in use complete with definitions, sources and the data steward responsible for each element. Ms. Baldwin points out, “A single source of truth builds confidence in the data being published.”
In honor of their location on the Chesapeake Bay, they branded the on-line data dictionary the ‘Data Bay.’ They then gave access to leadership, front-line managers, and the governance team as well as the project sponsors and analytics team members. Anyone can search the ‘Data Bay‘to find where a data element is used, where it comes from and who is responsible for it.
Mr. Lehr argues, “Doing the hard work of documentation is an absolutely essential part that almost everybody misses. I talk to these folks who are just getting started in data governance, and every single one of them asks me, ‘Yeah, but how much time is it going to take to go back and backfill all of the reports that we did? That seems like it’s too much work.’ I say to them, ‘It’s not a new project to document what you’ve already done. It’s just finishing all of those projects that you never finished.’ People are taking on lots of technical debt by having a report out there that nobody knows what it’s saying, nobody knows what it’s doing, yet every time it breaks, one of their analysts is spending time to fix it and maintain it because they don’t know if somebody out there might actually be using the thing. Going through that process of figuring out what you’re using and what you’re not using, and then documenting that so that more than one person can actually get meaning out of it. It’s not an extra project. It’s just technical debt that you need to pay off.”
The Future of Analytics
Not content to rest on their past successes, each of these programs is looking to the future. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are topics that several of these organizations are exploring. Dr. Mathew maintained, “The time to insight in any analytics work will need to get shorter and shorter… As we think about embedding this in people’s work flows, the analytics really has to have a combination of not just humans but machines making decisions and taking actions so that we can make quantum leaps in improvement and progress. True work flow automation is what I’m trying to focus on more and more.”
George Reynolds, M.D., is a principal at Reynolds Healthcare Advisers and is a former CIO and CMIO of Children's Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
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