Data Governance is not just a Healthcare Issue

Data governance is important for all organizations that have data – healthcare or otherwise.

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/photostock

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/photostock

Consider my past job. I worked at a government agency that funded job training and social work programs. We had a vast amount of data. We had data on every person who had ever participated in our programs, in any way, even if they just walked into a Career Center once, from when our program started in the 80s. We had data on youth too, from ages 12 to 18, as long as they qualified for our programs. So, of course, with all this data and record-keeping, we had to have systems to store the data and run reports; we had to have people to do these things (both “data stewards”, if you will, and an overseeing IT team, as well as leadership staff who oversaw everyone).

So, as you can imagine, data governance was an important thing at my last company. And, just like many healthcare organizations now, while I was there we were at a point of trying to streamline and organize our data governance. This was not an easy task. While most of the company was going about their business as usual, entering data and pulling reports when, how and as needed, I was selected to be a part of a committee that was going to head up streamlining our data governance and data systems.

This team included data stewards and leadership from each program department, representatives from IT, representatives from Finance, and even the Vice President of Operations. It was important to have a representative of each type of department who had their hands on the data be present. That way, nothing would go overlooked, and each department would have a say in what went on.

Our first step was to look at what different departments were doing differently. Many things were the same – we used the same program, we had the same positions of people doing similar tasks. But some things were different. Some things were just coded entirely differently from department to department. It was definitely a lot to go through. Once the Finance system was brought in, it was certainly a whole other task. As with many companies, the finance data system was different than the client tracking data system.

In the end, we tested out, chose and purchased a system that worked for both the program side, and the finance side of our organization. It took over a year, and it took lots of work from our committee and especially from the IT and Finance teams. The IT team had to switch past client data over to the new system, and the Finance team had to change their system as well. Everyone had to learn this new system.

But now, just a few years later, my old company runs much more smoothly than it did before. Clients are better tracked and served, with better outcomes, and the Finance side is run automatically and in a much more efficient way than it previously was.

It was a painstaking process to go through, but the results were well worth it.

image courtesy of flickr.com/ChrisPotter

image courtesy of flickr.com/ChrisPotter

This type of data governance is the same thing that needs to happen with healthcare organizations. Data governance is an important step in moving forward with healthcare data. And there are guidelines on how best to do it. It is first important to gather the right team of people to start this process. And, in the end, it will have been worth it to get desired outcomes, more efficiency and hopefully cost-saving as well.