Common Mistakes in Healthcare Data Governance – Part 2

Aug 13, 2021

Welcome to the sequel to Common Mistakes in Healthcare Data Governance Part – 1, where we introduced three mistakes organizations make when embarking on the difficult but essential journey of data governance. Read on as we wrap up the discussion with three more mistakes we often see.

Common Mistake #4: Not Connecting to the Overall Strategy

There are some things that organizations just do, like paying employees and obeying laws, without anybody ever asking: “but how does this tie to our strategic goals?” Unfortunately, data governance is not one of those things, at least not yet. Successfully instilling enterprise-wide data governance requires time, effort, and money, and it isn’t clear to everyone why it is such an important investment. So until data governance is widely accepted as a “just do it”, it will be necessary to develop a compelling story that describes how good data governance practices allow your organization to meet specific strategic goals.

For example, one of your strategic goals might relate to forging a partnership with a key payer in your market to develop competitive insurance products that drive volume to your clinics and lower the total cost of care. To be successful, data will need to be shared between the organizations, and market, patient, and financial data will need to be analyzed to ensure the product is beneficial to both organizations and to members/patients.

If data at your organization is hard to find, poorly defined, and inconsistent, analysts will spend all their time trying to acquire and clean up the data and will have less time for analysis. And it will only get worse trying to make sense of and integrating the incoming payer data. Good data governance practices have a direct impact on the ability to succeed in an endeavor like this and allow the organization to fulfill its strategy.

Common Mistake #5: Neglecting Marketing

Marketing is everywhere: on every website we visit, on the train, in the elevator, even in public restrooms. It’s how we find out about cool new products and services, and more importantly it’s how we learn that our life is incomplete without those new products and services. We want to be like the athletic person or the sophisticated couple or the happy family we see on the ad or in the commercial. Advertising is so prevalent because it works—it identifies gaps and tells us exactly which stores and websites to visit to fill those gaps. Yet when it comes to our work life, we just expect our colleagues to be equally interested in and concerned about the same things we are interested in and concerned about.

The reality is there are many, many things competing for your colleagues’ time and attention. To sell data governance to your organization, put on your marketing hat and get creative about how to get your message across. Work with key stakeholders and your organization’s communications staff to come up with branding for your enterprise data governance program to provide a more user-friendly name and/or slogan for the effort such as “Right Data, Right Time” or “ABC Health Data Symphony.” Use this branding to create coffee mugs, pens, and other swag. Set up one-on-one “sales” meetings to get stakeholders on board. These are just a few ideas. Imagine you are an external vendor coming into the organization to sell your product—what might you do to get people in your organization to buy in?

Common Mistake #6: Boiling the Ocean

People who have been working with healthcare data at their organization for any amount of time are well-acquainted with the inefficiencies, struggles, and conflict caused by data and report sprawl, contradictory definitions and calculations, and other data governance issues. So when the topic of implementing a data catalog and the potential for addressing these issues comes up, people naturally get excited and want to fix everything as soon as possible. Keeping the end goal in mind is of course important, but it’s easy (and all too common) to take on way too large of a scope right away. Attempting to instill solid data governance practices across the whole organization, signing up an army of data stewards, and taking on all the major data sources and reporting platforms is overwhelming and will likely sink the effort early on.

A better way to begin, and one that drastically increases the chances of success, is to start small. Identify a single use case that has engaged stakeholders and for which progress can be demonstrated incrementally. An example might be a single department’s operational dashboard. Start by identifying the metrics on the dashboard, work with subject matter experts to understand the definitions (inclusion and exclusion criteria) for a manageable subset of the metrics, and then trace the metric data to the data sources.

Next, document the definitions, owners, and other metadata in the data catalog, and make that information available to the organization to demonstrate the benefit of the data governance process. Then move on to additional metrics and eventually additional use cases. Along the way, draft and refine processes, procedures, and issues that need to be addressed at a steering committee level. Before you know it, you will have a robust data governance program solidly underway!

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