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Healthcare’s Data Problem: So Much Data, yet So Little Data Fidelity

As the volume of healthcare data accelerates, health system leaders must take critical steps to elevate the quality, completeness and accessibility of data they capture, manage and aggregate.

Healthcare data accounts for 30% of the world’s data, and that proportion will jump to 36% by next year. Yet healthcare leaders say just 57% of their data is used to make intelligent business decisions, in large part because they can’t count on the data to be accurate, a HIMSS survey found. 

As the volume of healthcare data accelerates, health system leaders must take critical steps to elevate the quality, completeness and accessibility of data they capture, manage and aggregate. It’s a challenge that goes beyond an individual healthcare organization’s ability to make better strategic decisions impacting customer acquisition, retention, and lifetime value as well as patient outcomes and safety; it also impacts the much bigger promise of sharing and consuming data across the care continuum—especially amid high expectations for information exchange and generative artificial intelligence.

Rising volumes and increased complexity

A survey, conducted by my firm, of 197 executives from hospitals, health systems and health plans points to where breakdowns in healthcare data reliability typically occur and their concerns regarding their organization’s ability to address these challenges.

Among the top challenges cited by leaders:

  • 67% of healthcare executives surveyed aren’t confident in their IT systems’ ability to protect the integrity of patient data.
  • Nearly half of healthcare leaders (49%) say their patient data is stored in fragmented, siloed systems.
  • Almost half of leaders (47%) believe their organization’s data is only being managed well in pockets of their organization.

These are issues that stretch across hospitals, health systems and health plans, and they are compounded by the rate at which healthcare data is pouring in from external sources.  Curating a complete and trusted longitudinal view of the patient journey from these fragmented, siloed systems is often inhibited by the seminal need for accurate patient identity matching—knowing who the data belongs to at every touchpoint. 

Legislators are taking notice. The introduction of the Patient Matching and Transparency in Health IT Act — also known as the Match IT Act — aims to improve identity data standardization and interoperability while establishing patient matching performance standards that healthcare organizations can be measured and benchmarked against. That’s important given that 57% of the healthcare leaders surveyed believe patient-matching errors could result in a healthcare crisis within the next five to 10 years. The Match IT Act is an important complement to the 21st Century Cures Act, already passed, that mandates frictionless flow of electronic health information exchange across the care continuum as directed by the patient.

And as organizations make significant investments in migrating their data to modern cloud computing platforms to support their key strategic initiatives such as building out their enterprise data analytics capabilities, transforming patient engagement and preparing their data for gen AI innovation, improving data fidelity by getting identity right — knowing who is who, is a foundational imperative.  As healthcare leaders strive to unlock the limitless potential of our healthcare data, they are going beyond legacy efforts to guarantee high data fidelity, starting up front with investing in modern systems and processes that get identity right from the start.  

Actions for improved data accuracy

Following are critical steps healthcare organizations should take to elevate the quality of healthcare data as data volume grows faster than ever.

  1. Understand that investment in a master data management system (MDM) is a foundational element of any enterprise data strategy including health data exchange and trusted data models for generative AI. According to Gartner, the move to an MDM is inevitable, as it is considered a strategic aspect of digital business. But making the move to an MDM or even better, a modern purpose built for healthcare MDM (hMDM), is a foundational endeavor that requires thoughtful planning, which is why it should be part of a strategic planning effort for the organization. The majority (89%) of healthcare organizations believe that an investment in MDM/hMDM systems is required to manage the increase in data captured in different systems. Unlocking the power of healthcare data starts with the foundational investment in a modern hMDM to properly identify patients, correctly match patients to their data across all disparate systems and enrich and manage that data from a centralized enterprise governance system.  
  2. Assess where your organization stands with Cures Act compliance. Today’s healthcare organizations are behind the 8-ball when it comes to being able to manage data in the ways the Cures Act requires. While most leaders surveyed say their organizations have put at least moderate effort into Cures Act compliance, and 61% say they have invested “a great deal of effort,” the need for significant focus and action remains. Organizations that believe they are falling behind should focus on establishing and/or enhancing their MDM/hMDM systems to avoid the potential for a crisis.
  3. Determine what new actions are needed to stay ahead of a healthcare data tsunami. Although most healthcare organizations have already begun preparing for a data influx, many feel unprepared for the future. Just one out of five leaders believe their organizations are “completely prepared” to handle the expected influx. Slightly more than half (51%) believe they have made progress, but they recognize more can be done. 

By taking a hard look at where an organization stands in regard to data fidelity and information exchange, leaders can more confidently determine the right path forward, and unleash the potential of digital transformation to truly impact growth, cost and quality of care.

Photo credit: Flickr user Muffet

Clay Ritchey is the chief executive officer of Verato, the identity experts for healthcare. Verato hMDMTM is the next generation of MDM for healthcare, with a unique focus on accuracy and identity management—allowing you to connect, identify, enrich, manage, and activate person and organization data across the enterprise and beyond.

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