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The Increased Focus on Data Governance in the Healthcare Field

The data that an enterprise possesses is often its most valuable asset. These information resources are used for a variety of business purposes and are instrumental in remaining competitive with market rivals. While all of this information holds some value, not all data is created equal. Depending on the type of organization, there may be some data that is considerably more important than other pieces of information contained in company databases.

Data governance can be seen as a way to manage information in a way that balances the needs of organizations to collect and secure data while also extracting the maximum amount of value from it. Also known as information governance in the healthcare industry, it is more precisely defined as a framework for managing health information throughout its lifecycle.

Special Requirements of the Healthcare Industry

Healthcare presents some unique challenges pertaining to its data. Much of it contains personal and sensitive information about the patients that demand more protection than data collected on customers for other types of businesses. In addition to payment details that may include credit card and bank account numbers, further personally identifiable information (PII) is a necessary component of healthcare records. Items such as social security numbers, medical history, and medications are also stored by healthcare providers.

There is also a larger and more diversified group of stakeholders with an interest in patient information. Along with the doctors and nurses who are directly responsible for patient care, many ancillary departments and individuals may have access to sensitive data at various times in the life of an electronic health record (EHR). Handling financial obligations, scheduling follow-up outpatient care, and providing medications all demand the interaction of different parts of the underlying administrative machinery of the healthcare industry.

The increase in the number of entities making use of patients’ healthcare records makes it even more important that data governance is successfully implemented. One of the goals of a governance initiative is developing a common language to discuss the information with which they are tasked to work. In the case of the sensitive data involved in healthcare, securing this information is of prime importance and needs to be considered at all times.

How Healthcare Benefits From Data Governance

Healthcare is comprised of two distinct groups. Providers and patients both have an interest in the quality and security of the data collected, stored, and used by the healthcare industry. Data governance benefits both sides of the equation in various and complementary ways. Here are some of the most pressing issues that can be addressed through data governance.

Patient matching and identification – Many healthcare professionals are faced with problems involving mismatched patient records. Incomplete, incorrect or outdated records can have an adverse effect on many parts of the healthcare system ranging from treatment options to insurance reimbursement.

Improving patient engagement and access to data – Patients in the 21st Century are demanding transparency into their health records and want the ability to control who has access to it.  Aggregating information from different providers is necessary to draw a complete picture of an individual’s health history and requires both inter-organizational and intra-organizational data governance.

Streamlining healthcare workflows – Electronic health record systems can be difficult for providers to navigate efficiently. This is often due to problems of incorrect or irrelevant information that can be addressed through a data governance program.

Managing the social determinants of health – Performing analytics based on patients’ data to uncover non-clinical factors that impact their care is another way that data governance can prove to be important. The socioeconomic data that is required to make effective use of this type of analysis is often unstructured. Data governance can introduce technologies such as natural language processing which can be used to extract relevant information from unstructured data and shed light on methods to improve society’s health in new and innovative ways.

Instituting Comprehensive Data Governance

The foundation of a viable data governance initiative is the creation of a common language encompassing the information at an organization’s disposal. IDERA’s ER/Studio suite of products assists organizations struggling with the task of creating a solid base for their data governance efforts. It is a collaborative tool that enables all stakeholders in an organization to be involved in the process of developing the principles and that will inform the way its data is governed.

ER/Studio is designed to enable modeling of the relationships between people, processes, and data. It allows business goals to be aligned with processes and conceptual models by improving data consistency and quality. In the healthcare field, this means using data governance to furnish better quality care for patients while simplifying and coordinating data exchange between providers. Eventually, we all will interact with the healthcare industry and will benefit from the improvements fostered through data governance.

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