What Role Does Data Governance Play in the Healthcare System?
Data governance, or the intentional management of data as an asset, is critical to the future success of the healthcare industry. Proper data governance paves a path toward responsible data management and the effective implementation of data analytics. The role of data governance shifts depending on the organization in question and the objective at hand. However, there are several best practices concerning data governance and five major roles that said governance plays across the healthcare industry.
Data Governance Best Practices
Data governance is far more than a concept or a general striving after responsible data management. It has become a discipline in and of itself and spans multiple industries. Given that modern professionals who utilize data on a regular basis have a certain amount of experience with data governance, several best practices have emerged.
One of the leading principles of data governance is lean governance. In other words, don’t go overboard and try to micromanage every piece of data that comes through the door. In the same way that a teacher applies only the discipline required to keep the class managed and under control, only the amount of governance that is necessary to protect data security and facilitate overall quality of care should be utilized. Oftentimes, newcomers to data governance and data-driven culture apply far too much governance in their excitement. While enthusiasm is positive, match it with temperance and a lean mindset when it comes to how it’s applied.
Of course, the quality of the data you govern is also important. It’s critical to understand what constitutes quality healthcare data and to ensure that any sub-standard data is either improved or eliminated in order to achieve the highest possible data quality. By setting high standards for the quality of data allowed in your repository, you can make better decisions based on the fact that only the best data is being used to power those decisions.
Gone are the days of departmental silos of data. Instead, the centralization of data is in. If an organization is going to run efficiently and effectively, it’s important that every member who requires access to data has access to all of it whenever they need it. Given the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data, it no longer benefits anyone to have data partitioned off to or owned by specific departments. The collective is what makes healthcare data analytics strong, so ensuring access to the collective is a major best practice of data governance.
Data literacy is also important. This can manifest in two ways. On the one hand, organizations can make training a priority and ensure that all members who need access to data have the technical knowledge required to do so. On the other, software programs that utilize large amounts of data but display that data in an accessible, clear, and easy-to-understand manner, even for those without technical knowledge, can also be beneficial. It’s usually best to combine these methods and aim for having well-trained staff who have access to clear and simple database interfaces.
Finally, it’s critical that data is appropriately prioritized so that the information most pertinent to top-level organizational goals is treated with preference and timeliness. While all data is important, certain forms of data might be more temporal in nature and require immediate action. It’s important for an organization to understand which data needs to be prioritized, how it needs to be prioritized, and why that priority hierarchy matters.
It’s also worth noting that data stewardship is a role that every member of an organization must embrace in order to properly implement data governance. It no longer belongs just to leadership or administrative professionals. Instead, data governance is everyone’s responsibility and all members play a part in it.
5 Major Roles of Data Governance in the Healthcare System
Aside from following best practices, it’s also important for those engaged in data governance to understand its roles in the healthcare system. We’ll briefly touch on the five major roles of data governance as it relates to healthcare activities, but each of these is worth further investigation for those who are interested in implementing data governance principles in their own organizations and facilities.
Facilitating a Comprehensive View of the Healthcare System
One of the primary roles of data governance is to help HCOs and their administrative teams obtain an overview of their particular organization but, more importantly, the healthcare system as a whole. Just as the trend of siloing data off into departments is dying, so is the idea that healthcare is strictly a local or geographic issue. Healthcare is worldwide, and the broader a view we in the healthcare industry can obtain the more accurate the information and services we provide can be.
One of the more obvious roles of data governance is to increase security. Unmonitored, loosely monitored, and fragmented data isn’t just useless, it’s dangerous. Data governance seeks to increase security through the centralization of data and an organized and systematic approach to its monitoring and oversight.
Establishing Common Language
Data governance principles also help to establish common definitions, metadata, and terminology that can be used throughout a single HCO and throughout the healthcare system as a whole. Using common terms and common language helps to mitigate any inconsistencies or mistakes that can arise due to a lack of understanding or a miscommunication. Common terms and common understanding is key to effective, efficient, and accurate communication and, eventually, the successful facilitation of healthcare goals.
Improving the Efficiency of Data Transfer
Properly governing data can also benefit HCOs and the overall system by improving the efficiency of data transfer. In the past, requests had to be sent, departments had to sign off, and once information got through the hierarchy it was either too late or fragmented. Now, connectivity is the name of the game, and when data governance occurs with centralization in mind, data transfer becomes seamless and efficient.
Improve Quality of Care by Centralizing Data
Finally, as we’ve touched on before, centralizing data and employing proper data governance techniques and best practices will improve the overall quality of care. Having a central repository that allows access to everyone who needs it regardless of where they are or when they need it is the key to efficient, timely care.
Data Governance and Healthcare Technology
Technology can add an element of usability and literacy to data analytics, especially in the healthcare system. By offering a platform whereon even those without a technical background can attain the data they need and understand it, healthcare technology and software programs can work to facilitate data governance and quality of care goals. Utilizing such programs and devices can help healthcare practitioners make better decisions in a more efficient manner, thus increasing the quality of care they can provide and decreasing associated costs at the same time.
There are many roles that data governance plays in the healthcare system. However, by focusing on data governance best practices and understanding the five most common roles that governance plays in the system at large, we can begin to understand and implement effective measures to centralize data and manage it effectively. While there is still much to learn and data governance processes will likely become more refined as the years go on, getting started with responsible governance can help HCOs and practices get started on the right foot and make real changes in the present.