• Divya Malhotra

Data Governance in Healthcare - The basics

With competing priorities, healthcare organizations often struggle to justify the time and commitment needed for a good data governance program. Below is a short Q&A document that helps address the key concepts behind data governance.

What is it?

You may have heard about Data Governance, Information Governance or Information Management or many other terms. The boring definition of Data Governance(Source: DAMA- Data Management Body of Knowledge) is:

Data governance is the exercise of authority and control (planning, monitoring, and enforcement) over the management of data assets. The data governance function guides how all other data management functions are performed. Data governance is high-level, executive data stewardship.

In simple words, it means we need to define our Data Governance program defining our data needs, our objectives as an organization and our issues with the data, including regulatory requirements. This will help us manage our data resources by defining data policies, standards, , data catalogs and above all, realize value for our organization using data.

Should it be implemented at the departmental or enterprise level?

At its core, data management is an enterprise endeavor. Some information is managed at the department level but all data governance should be centralized led by your Chief Information or Data officer.

Also, don’t do this without a champion. This could become an uphill battle if your senior executives don’t see the value and don’t think its necessary.

Why do it at all?

To build a business case for data governance, have a use case around regulatory requirement that will motivate people into looking at data governance seriously. Are there duplicate records that cause serious patient safety or legal concerns? Is erroneous information creating “bad” reports that lead people to wrong decisions? Are you losing revenue due to incorrect patient information in the billing or other IS systems? All of the three above are good use cases to justify a data governance program.

How to achieve it?

Build a steering team to deploy it and sustain it. Also, having a roadmap or vision helps. After assessing needs of the organization, deploy one project at a time. Having data stewards is critical to success. A Data steward is a knowledge worker and a well-known business leader with a certain domain of expertise. For instance, a revenue cycle manager, would typically be a data steward for the billing/revenue cycle domain.

Communication of the program is key and can be achieved by various channels like newsletters and an intranet web page outline new data sources, input/output and latest updates.

What are the critical success factors of a data governance program?

1. Should be an enterprise-wide, visible project. Programs done locally will probably fail as the overall vision and roadmap is lacking.

2. Resources are typically tight in healthcare organizations. Using consultants for data catalogs and project management is usually a good idea.

3. Data stewards – Data stewards will be key in determining data quality and needs of the business unit. They are critical to the success of the effort.

4. Should not be seen as “Flavor of the day”, but more of an ongoing effort. Should be compared to accounting function where there is a day-to-day operations and an audit function.

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