By Jane Hite-Syed, Chief Information Officer of National Government Services (NGS)
The past two years have been stressful and unpredictable, with even more health technology alterations anticipated in 2022 and beyond. The technology behind Healthcare is consistently developing and progressing to meet core needs, with new services and innovations finding their place in the Healthcare arena. One process that can limit stress, now and in the future, is successful Healthcare data management.
Data Management Challenges
Managing Healthcare data starts with taking on these technologies and their processes. A common theme across the Federal space is that health organizations are frequently overwhelmed with significant amounts of data, information and accounts. Technology has provided success across the Healthcare industry and continues to supply clarity for a multitude of issues. However, the data management process does not come without significant challenges and obstacles, specifically across interoperability, integrity and governance.
One challenge is consolidating disparate systems. When key systems are not working together, it can lead to data entry inconsistencies and errors. Additionally, the process of working to integrate legacy systems with current technologies, databases and applications can cause significant headaches for Federal health IT teams. Implementing solutions to ease the process of accessing specific data will allow for more organized and secure systems, which in turn will support a smoother workflow and forward-looking innovation process.
It’s evident there are challenges that organizations are always focused on, but they can be simplified through successful data management strategies. If organizations consider interoperability, integrity and governance, they’re taking a key step forward in tackling these problems.
Put simply, interoperability is the successful process of a range of computer systems, or software, to exchange, communicate and make use of information. When technology developed by different manufacturers can speak with one another, it provides a level of consistency.
A challenge across industry is the fact that not everyone is on the same playing field when it comes to interoperability. Some providers are still stuck with a consolidated clinical document architecture (CCDA) and are focused more on data exchange as opposed to management. The primary issue with CCDA is that it doesn’t specify how documents are transported, but rather how critical data elements should be encoded for exchange and interoperability. It can exchange clinical summaries, transitions of care and data portability, but makes it difficult for an organization to manage those aspects.
The leading benefit of interoperability is that patients and care providers can access accurate health records in real-time. When pharmacies, medical labs and providers can access the right patient data, and keep information consolidated, it leads to much smoother processes because necessary materials are in a sole, accessible area.
When legacy and proprietary systems struggle to communicate with contemporary applications or software, it contributes to the list of challenges, but the adoption of data standards would ensure greater interoperability. When organizations implement the necessary standards and rules for managing data, it enables more opportunities for Healthcare innovation.
Efficient data management smooths out and speeds up this process by cleaning and organizing data more tactically, allowing better access to those who need it most.
When health records remain accurate, they provide useful information. When organizations don’t have to worry about errors across patient information, it saves them time, allowing medical teams to perform with the data they need. This in turn supports better patient outcomes, as well as greater overall population health, so Healthcare providers can better serve their communities and regions. When there is updated, essential health information, it enables future success.
On the flip side, when data records are not maintained or not reflective of the actual state of a patients’ health, it can lead to a cascade of mistakes, including improper care diagnosis and treatment, inefficient and ineffective processes for Healthcare providers. It can leave much to be desired, including a patient’s previous results and current medications.
Through better data management, these services and tasks can be updated in real-time, providing accurate information for patients and providers. When all details are kept up-to-date, organizations can move toward additional Healthcare innovation, work on the development of patient-provider relationships, save time and ultimately better serve those in medical need.
Once data integrity and interoperability are successfully implemented, it’s key that these two processes are kept on track through data governance.
Healthcare governance focuses on the lifecycle of patients’ data and information, from beginning to end, addressing all aspects of the Healthcare process, including payments, care notes, medications and forms of treatment. If a provider doesn’t have access to information on a patient’s past, how can it make informed decisions on the patient’s future?
If the lifecycle of patient information isn’t taken care of properly and holds inconsistencies, it can lead to confusion among providers, especially when terms or verbiage differ between organizations. When critical health information is interpreted differently, it can create misunderstandings across teams, internally and externally. These differences and interpretations force providers to adjust and work to understand records, as opposed to building off and acting upon them.
Data management strategies can help organize this process by filing information and gathering data that is similar but referenced differently. These strategies will develop cohesion across organizations and professionals who need access to timely patient data; inevitably speeding up the process of patient care across teams, while creating a more focused and aligned healthcare data source.
The Future of Data Management
In order to move forward successfully, organizations should work to implement data interoperability, data integrity and data governance. When all three of these are connected and working together, it provides a cohesive system and operation that better serves patients, while supporting the organization of teams across the Healthcare process. These approaches can benefit the Healthcare efforts of today while creating an easier path for future innovation.
Throughout the world of Healthcare data, there are many challenges and minute details that need to be addressed to provide top-of-the-line care for patients. Healthcare data management can put organizations in a position to overcome them, and by implementing a strong Healthcare data management regimen into core processes, it will support a better future for Healthcare organizations and patients.
The more effort that is put into initial processes, including data accuracy, speed of access and efficiency, will certainly save time down the road, allowing teams to provide innovative Healthcare solutions in a timelier manner. Providers and specialists would not have to work to interpret patient histories but instead clearly understand them in an organized fashion, allowing teams to provide care wherever and whenever needed.
About Jane Hite-Syed
Jane Hite-Syed leads National Government Services’ Information Technology team, a group focused on digital transformation and the Government’s path to modernization. Her team is implementing change through the use of model-driven development, robotic process automation, and application integration. Hite-Syed oversees seasoned professionals in application development, data center management, enterprise architecture, infrastructure support, and scaled Agile framework and security.
About National Government Services, Inc. (NGS)
For more than 50 years, National Government Services has been a trusted partner and innovative leader in Federal health care contracting. Employing approximately 1,500 associates, National Government Services is committed to providing robust health information technology and administrative services. As a Medicare contractor for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), National Government Services processes more than 228 million Medicare claims and administers benefits of approximately $84 billion from the Medicare Trust Fund annually.