How to bring data governance to your healthcare organization—on a budget


Twenty years ago, data governance in a hospital setting was primarily about keeping good patient records and making sure the charts were filed alphabetically in the Medical Records room down the hall.

As you know, things have changed.
Those filing cabinets are now massive data lakes, with information coming in from HR, Finance, and your EMR system—and with clinicians, administrators, and leadership expecting to find answers to their questions faster than ever. (As they should.) 

Unfortunately, for those of us managing the data behind the scenes, this new flood of digital information came pouring in before most of us had time to think through a new version of our “digital filing cabinets”. As a result, files are piling up in every digital corner, reports don’t match, dashboards conflict, and, the reality is, we won’t be able to deliver consistently good data until we get some governance in place. 

But how do you build a data governance program on the fly, while you’re actively cranking out reports and analytics, and you’ve got almost no budget to work with?

Here are three steps to get you started: 

Step One: Show them what they’re missing.
If you’re truly starting with no budget for data governance, this is the place to start. This step will require some manual effort, but it’s an effective way to begin building a hunger for more data governance—and, hopefully, it won’t take long to move you to Step Two.

Essentially, Step One is to start writing up and including metric definitions on the reports, dashboards, and analytics you provide, whenever possible.

So, for example, if someone requests a report of visits by department, instead of just giving them a report with stats, include a footnote that shows written definitions for how those stats were defined and how this report was generated. These might include: 

  • What dates are being pulled? 
  • What departments are included or not included? 
  • Does it include phone or telehealth visits? 
  • What about unit-to-unit transfers, are those counted? 
  • What other factors are impacting this stat? 
  • Were any assumptions made?  
  • Who created this report? 
  • If anyone reading this report has questions, who should they contact?

Basically, start to preemptively include the insights that can prevent data chaos. And be sure to keep a log of all these definitions and information. This kind of metadata will be very valuable in Step Three.

Step Two: Assemble a data governance team.
If you want to drive the efficiency, accuracy, and transparency of your organization’s data quickly—and keep it going over the long-term—you’ll need a team:

  • A data governance program facilitator
    This can be a full- or part-time role, or a team of people, but it’s critical that someone has ownership over driving data governance at your organization. Otherwise you’ll risk having an “everyone owns it so no one owns it” scenario, which will eventually kill the effort entirely.
  • Data stewards
    You’ll need subject matter experts who can help define the metrics, reports, and metadata along the way.
  • A steering committee
    And, finally, you’ll need leaders who can guide the vision, set the strategy, and help settle any disputes over definitions, metrics, etc.

Step Three: Invest in organizational tools.
Hopefully Steps One and Two will start to generate interest in and investment for a more robust data governance program. Once you have some budget to work with, start with what will generate the most results with the least effort. Be careful not to overbuy at this point–an overly large investment will put too much immediate ROI pressure on your fledgling program. 

The best place to begin is with these two tools:

  • A healthcare metric hub

This seemingly small tool will pack an incredibly powerful punch for your data governance efforts. Basically, a metric hub will align the definitions for everything you’re measuring so you can be sure the metrics are consistent, accurate, and trustworthy with every usage across your entire organization.

Instead of having to manually write your metric definitions as a footnote on each report (as suggested in Step One), every report, dashboard, and spreadsheet will simply pull the definitions from the metric hub—so you’ll know they’re accurate and consistent. (Learn more about a healthcare metric hub and why you need one here.)

Notably, the Compendium Healthcare Metric Hub is the only hub that’s built to handle the robust inclusions, exclusions, caveats, nuances, and regulations involved with healthcare metrics. And, best of all for a low-budget undertaking—it comes free with the Compendium Data Catalog.

  • A data catalog built for healthcare

Why is a data catalog so important to start with? Think of a data catalog like the neatly organized rows of filing cabinets from years back. With a data catalog in place, anyone in your organization can browse what reports, dashboards, stats, and analytics are available, find the answers they’re looking for, and trust that it’s accurate. Plus they can see who created and who owns each piece of information, so they know where to go with questions. (Learn more about creating a self-serve data culture here.)

Like those filing cabinets of old, once you have a data catalog in place, you can easily add locks, keys, security features, and other data governance solutions from there. Having a data catalog in place will make growing your data governance program much easier.

The Compendium Data Catalog is the only data catalog built specifically for the unique needs of healthcare organizations and—importantly—it comes with a much lower price tag than the massive data catalogs that include features healthcare organizations would never need. 

If you’re desperate for data governance in your healthcare organization but you’ve got no budget (or not much) to work with, don’t worry. You can still make progress and start building momentum toward a more complete program. 

Ready to start building some data governance? Check out Compendium, the data catalog for healthcare that delivers maximum results with minimal effort.

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