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Data Management

Healthy data helps patients and providers fl ourish

Keeping data verifi ed, clean and secure is critical medicine for today’s complex patient information.

By Bud Walk er E

valuating and maintaining data quality is com- plex in any industry. However, the uniquely complex and non-stop aspects of healthcare data management complicate the process sig-

nifi cantly. Characterized by a steady stream of patient records and evolving contact points, information must be managed effectively within a deep well of legacy data. Coding and fi ling claims, and constant updating of medical records, are prime examples of routine data- entry points that can very quickly degrade the quality and resulting effectiveness of an organization’s database. Administrators and overall health networks are further challenged by socioeconomic changes in healthcare plans and federal requirements for compliance with data security and privacy.

Bud Walker is director of data quality solutions at Melissa Data.

For more information on Melissa Data solutions:

Preventive medicine is often the best approach, and it’s no different in sustain- ing healthy data. Long-term success requires implement- ing a data-quality fi rewall that provides instantaneous,

point-of-entry data-cleaning tools that prevent bad data from entering the database in the fi rst place. From there, a healthy regimen of ongoing data-quality processes is advised, as even good data changes and degrades over time. Data simply isn’t stagnant, and providers must manage clinical and business processes effectively with the right on-site data-quality tools.

Nonstop data requires nonstop data quality “Assuming the data is ‘just fi ne’ is not a suffi cient data- quality program for a vibrant healthcare system. In fact, committing to data quality is an essential initiative, as administrators and practitioners alike rely heavily on the constant fl ow and high volume of shared information,” says Andy Hayler, CEO of analyst fi rm The Informa- tion Difference. “Clinicians may be primarily concerned with providing top-notch care, but today that is driven signifi cantly by telemedicine and electronic communi-

6 June 2011

On-site data-quality solutions enable effective maintenance of patient data, while allowing providers to meet privacy and compliance guidelines securely, thoroughly and automatically.

cations. Recognizing the value of accurate data in this process is helping to improve treatment, diagnosis and overall patient health.” Achieving a single view of the customer (the patient, in this case) requires clean, standardized data that effec- tively matches, links and purges records. Simple prob- lems arise, such as “householding,” in which residents of the same home may share the same surnames, be a party to divorce or even have changed names. Solving these basic issues at the point of data entry is optimal. The fl ux of data is staggering, with more than 43 million Americans (one in six) moving annually and as many as 33 percent skipping the step of updating their address records. These basic challenges represent data that degrades very quickly, especially for healthcare facilities attempting to provide patient care to a mov- ing target. Has marriage or divorce resulted in a name change? Are data fi elds combining or separating fi rst and last names? Does the patient reside on 12th Av- enue or Twelfth Street? Published research from The Data Warehousing Institute indicates that these types of common inaccuracies account for nearly 76 percent of data-quality errors. The wave of bad data can grow quickly, especially when you factor in daily changes in U.S. carrier routes and the more than 100,000 changes


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