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GUEST BLOG: The Data Management Challenge: Unlocking the Value of Clinical Data Requires Enterprise-Wide Transformation

March 19, 2013
by Ted Reynolds, Michael Garzone, and John Walton, CTG Health Solutions
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With intensive efforts to improve the quality, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of healthcare, providers are facing a veritable tsunami of data

Ted Reynolds

Mike Garzone

John Walton

As the healthcare market continues its quest to achieve greater efficiencies, lower costs and deliver higher quality patient care, a number of market drivers have created a tsunami of data.

New technologies and smart devices such as intelligent pumps, wired ventilators and bedside vitals are capturing instant, discrete clinical metrics.  Today’s healthcare consumer is creating new data elements through increased mobile interaction.  Health reform and the big switchover to ICD-10 are also playing a big part in generating data.  Through it all, providers and payers are being held accountable to capture, report on, and analyze this new “big data.” 

What does this all mean for you and your organization? All of this data must be captured accurately, governed, protected, and held confidentially.

“Big Data” is big news and big business in healthcare.  New data management tools and technologies are improving and changing the way that the data is captured, managed and utilized. Business rules and alerting, scalable distributed computing, and ready-made data models and dashboards all require a solid data architecture as their foundation in order to be useful. Yet tools and data marts are not enough. The transformation of raw data into useful, actionable information does not start with a BI tool or a new database platform.  It begins with the definition and development of a sound data governance infrastructure that is shored up by strong organizational commitment and executive support.   

Data governance is simply a fundamental prerequisite to any analytics initiative, including a future implementation of “big data.” It’s top-down and enterprise-wide in scope.  You can begin your data governance infrastructure as a grass roots program, but it will almost certainly fail without the support of executive leadership and stakeholders. Securing this critical commitment is absolutely essential, and many times requires a complete transformation of an organization’s culture. 

Some ways in which you can tackle making this cultural shift are:

> Engaging senior leadership and forming an Enterprise Information Management (EIM) Steering Committee to ensure alignment with your organization’s strategic objectives.

> Establishing an EIM Operations Committee composed of information stakeholders throughout the organization.  This is the single most important piece of advice that we can offer.

> Identifying the critical key performance indicators (KPIs) and associated metrics important to your business and aligning them with your organizational strategic objectives. 

> Assigning “data owners” to each KPI and instituting support through business and technical “data stewards” who will help prepare data definitions, remediate data quality issues and recommend algorithms for computing business metrics. 

Big data is no longer considered an industry trend.  For you to succeed in this new clear and present reality, it is imperative to establish an effective governance program supported by a viable roadmap before making significant investments in new hardware and tools. 

Lack of an effective governance process at the beginning of your data management program will inevitably lead to issues downstream, including data inaccuracies and unforeseen costs. By investing the time upfront to develop a sound plan backed by organization-wide commitment, your enterprise will be better positioned to transform clinical data into useful, actionable information.

About the authors: At CTG Health Solutions, Ted Reynolds is vice president; Michael Garzone is solutions director, technology services; and John Walton is senior delivery manager.

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