Dirty Data Detox: 3 Ways Poor Data Governance is Harming Healthcare

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest blogger Justin Hipps, MBA, is Technical Data Analyst at HealthLink Dimensions in Atlanta.


We’ve all heard the age old expression, “One bad apple spoils the bunch.” But, have you ever stopped to wonder whether this is actually true? Digging deeper, we discover this idiom is not only rooted in common sense, but also in science. When apples mature, they give off a gas called ethylene that accelerates the ripening process. However, if released too early, this gas has the ability to over-stimulate the ripening process, thus proving that one bad apple can, indeed, ruin all the others. You may be thinking, what do apples have in common with healthcare?

According to the McKinsey Center for US Health System Reform, “Healthcare is now the world’s largest industry – with a value and cost three times greater than the banking sector.” Continued growth is eminent as healthcare spending on telecommunications services alone is projected to outpace the growth of the $2.8 trillion healthcare industry as a whole by 2017, according to Insight Research Corp. To ensure this forward movement, we must clearly define impediments to growth and re-align our strategy as it relates to data quality in healthcare.  Much like rotten apples during harvest, poor data governance threatens the healthcare industry in the following ways:

#1: Poor Data Governance Reduces the Integrity and Reliability of Information. Consider, for a moment, the numerous IT concerns related to the ever increasing amount of data in healthcare, the systems and databases that house this data, and the guidelines governing how data is utilized. Our industry faces a remarkable set of challenges in modernizing its infrastructure, and at the top of this list should be ensuring data can be trusted. This should be true whether we are talking about electronic health records (EHRs), health information exchange (HIE), ICD-10 or any other facet of our healthcare system.

#2: Poor Data Governance is a Direct Threat to Security. Most industry professionals describe data governance as the integration of data quality, data management, data policies, business process management and risk management surrounding the handling of data in healthcare. With security in mind, IBM describes it as a “quality control discipline for assessing, managing, using, improving, monitoring, maintaining and protecting organizational information.“ Ideally, a strong data governance policy should contain a system of decision rights and accountabilities for information-related processes, executed according to agreed-upon models that describe who can take what actions with what information, and when, under what circumstances, using what methods.

#3: Poor Data Governance Prevents Interoperability. In a recent Forbes article entitled “A Manifesto on Interoperability in Healthcare IT,” Jonathon S. Feit, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Beyond Lucid Technologies, reminds us that “Digital health is nowhere near where it should (and could) be. But as health care organizations see their data dominance eroded, business models and success measures will shift from the number of patients whose data is ‘owned’ to the number of people whose lives are improved.” Consequently, the central idea behind interoperability in healthcare should be the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange and use information.

These principles should take a front seat as we enter a new era of growth. In the end, when it boils down to quality data governance, don’t be like the apple farmer who merely examines the apples at the top of the barrel. Dig deeper, and become a voice for excellence in data management.


Justin Hipps, MBA, is Technical Data Analyst at HealthLink Dimensions. Connect with him on Twitter via @HealthcareMBA.

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[...] Jennifer Dennard of AJC recently shared three ways that poor Data Governance can hurt healthcare. She writes, “We’ve all heard the age old expression, “One bad apple spoils the bunch.” But, have you ever stopped to wonder whether this is actually true? Digging deeper, we discover this idiom is not only rooted in common sense, but also in science. When apples mature, they give off a gas called ethylene that accelerates the ripening process. However, if released too early, this gas has the ability to over-stimulate the ripening process, thus proving that one bad apple can, indeed, ruin all the others. You may be thinking, what do apples have in common with healthcare?” [...]