5 Signs Your Healthcare Organization Needs Data Governance

Like going to the gym or skipping ice cream, most of us involved directly or indirectly with data in healthcare are at least aware that we “should” do something about data governance.  Some of us have even told ourselves, or our colleagues, that we’re going to make sure that our healthcare data governance initiative gets our attention next quarter. Or maybe in the fall, right after we finish this big project.

But the warning signs that you need to make data governance a priority may not be as clear as the result of too much ice cream.  Unless you know where to look. So in homage to those irresistible summer beach-read magazine lists, I present “5 Signs Your Healthcare Organization Needs Data Governance.”

1. The data is wrong; this is ’s fault.  Interdepartmental finger point over data issues is one of the most telltale signs your healthcare organization is struggling with data governance problems – especially when that finger pointing involves IT and another department.  The frustrated clinician knows the data they are looking at doesn’t reflect what really happened to the patient, and the overworked IT analyst knows that they didn’t change the data.  She just moved it from system A to system B and made sure it was backed up and available for this week’s report.

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Data governance can help get everyone on the same page about the data question before the finger pointing starts.  Start with the fundamentals such as being clear about or answering questions such as:

2. A never ending queue of requests for new reports Despite having more than 2500 production reports across your EMR vendor’s multiple reporting tools and your custom analytics platform, your overworked analytics team and business intelligence analysts have all but given up hope of keeping up with the onslaught of new requests pouring in each week from unsatisfied users who can’t find the data they need.  Most frustrating is that 90% of these requests are for reports that either already exist or differ only by a column or two from an existing report. These requests are something your users should easily be able to adapt in order to meet their needs since they have completed your BI self-service training program (but more on that later).

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Perhaps the issue isn’t your self-service analytics program or even user laziness, but is instead a lack of an easily searchable, documented, and well governed report catalog that spans the myriad of BI and reporting tools that you’ve acquired over the years. A single, easily-searchable catalog containing reports from across your enterprise enables users to find reports related to relevant business concepts or critical data elements that are directly or indirectly used in the report they need.

3. Focusing on the data instead of the analysis and conclusions When managers and executives at all levels start talking about the data instead of taking about what the data means to patients or the operations of the institution, you’ve uncovered a sure sign that your organization needs to spend more time on governance.   Typically, someone presents data or a report to support a controversial analysis or conclusion. But instead of the data becoming the factual reference point that the presenter intended, the discussion around the table quickly shifts focus to where the numbers came from or if the numbers presented are the “right” numbers.

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