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Welcome to our third and final blog post in the Buzzwords 101 series, where we’ve been exploring hot topics from HIMSS in more detail. In our previous post, we called Data Governance ‘the art of purposeful infrastructure’. While many kinds of governance approaches could be described in this way, we’re data geeks around here, so data governance is one of our favorites.

What’s art have to do with it?
We say ‘art’, because we find that, across the organizations we work with, meaningful and effective data governance is in the eye of the beholder. For example:

Needs help addressing gaps in their organizational understanding and efficiency with reporting tools, ranging from native EHR worklists to standalone BI tools to metrics management databases.

Needs support to design and implement structures and processes to support better data accuracy, privacy, and access.

It’s a purposeful world
When we think of governance, we think about the people, tools, and processes that support your effective use of data. The more purposeful you are about defining your approach, the more effectively you can leverage information. Areas to focus on include:

It can be overwhelming, especially as more data comes in with each passing day and more opportunities arise to use the data. Let’s focus more on some of the most challenging aspects of data governance and where to begin to successfully overcome them.

The Intangibles: Communication, Authority, Accountability
While it can be more exciting to focus on cool reporting and BI tools, we’ve seen these challenges take the brunt of the overhaul associated with defining data governance, especially in the healthcare space. The intangibles require paradigm shifts and taking new approaches, which are always difficult. The difficulties are magnified when time and priority are in tight supply.

For successful data governance, some of your most disparate groups need to agree to collaborate in new and demanding ways.

Your data consumers need to be increasingly aware of their role in quality data capture and reliable data outputs. Start by getting everyone to talk, face to face, recognizing and resisting the temptation to resort to emails and request tickets. Then push them to define what successful communication looks like; maybe it’s less back-and-forth or maybe it’s having reports with more clinical context. Understanding each other’s needs and defining their ideal state together will make it easier to get there.

Authority and Accountability:
Through recognizing the time, efforts, and frustrations it takes to build a data governance program, engaged leadership should show, not just speak their support. Relate data governance to your organization’s mission. Your staff wants to save time, harness and utilize more accurate and appropriate data, reduce costs, and increase quality of care. These are all outcomes of effective data governance, and are all goals that should resonate with your providers.

In addition to senior leadership championing your efforts, we’ve also seen the importance of data governance leadership in managing project scope and timelines and to push point people out of their comfort zones. Embarking on a data governance project is an IT version of a marathon, not a sprint; position staff with the expertise and bandwidth to keep your project moving.

We all have being unique in common
As you can tell, Data Governance can take on many different forms. Across the spectrum of people, tools, and processes, the need that seems the most pressing will vary based on both an organization’s current state and the trajectory they are on to reach their future goals. Take the time to understand your maturity level and future vision. Build upon the teams, structures and processes that already exist while you develop new processes, structures and technologies to support longer-term goals.   By starting with a foundation in the intangibles of people and how they communicate, your use of tools and technology will be more effective, and your consumers will be ready to reap the benefits the technology can provide.

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