data management

4 Keys to Accurate and Standardized Healthcare Data

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Accurate and standardized data. It sounds a bit aspirational, doesn’t it? The struggle of interoperability and standardized healthcare data is an ongoing battle. With well-documented barriers, it isn’t clear when healthcare data will become more accessible and standardized. According to some industry experts, the lack of healthcare data standardization is a key barrier to interoperability in the healthcare industry.

While barriers are often high, the advantages of standardized data are significant. Benefits can range from taking less time for statistical analysis to requiring less oversight and resource allocation. Regardless of the application, from clinical trials to supply chain management, data is king when it comes to saving money.

While an individual or an entire organization doesn’t have the bandwidth to tackle all data standardization and interoperability challenges within healthcare, these issues are still worth addressing, even if on a smaller scale. By developing a model for standardizing your data for a small subset, you can create a blueprint for success.

Four keys to developing accurate and standardized data

1. Capture data from disparate sources

For your database to contain all of the most relevant, accurate and up-to-date data, the database must capture that information from various sources. For different use cases, sources can range from patient intake forms to electronic health records (EHRs) to CRM systems. Across applications, the ability to capture this data through integration is crucial to data standardization.

2. Reconcile data

If different sources have different values for a record, two things need to happen. First, no duplication should occur. Second, the most accurate or up-to-date record should become the ‘master record’. For example, if the patient Sally Ride changes her last name to Morris and has records that contain both her current and previous name, then the following must happen: you must have a process to determine which record is up-to-date; the accurate record must become the ‘master’ record; and thirdly, any duplicates containing the outdated name must be deleted.

3. Data mapping and normalization

When standardizing data, it’s important to determine what will be normalized. This approach will determine which key pieces of data can be used across applications. To aid this effort, we recommend that you develop a normalization matrix. Additionally, you should create or refine your data mapping, which describes the relationships between different entities in your database. This allows you to map your “dirty data” to new, standardized fields and values. By creating an accurate data mapping, you can avoid repeating old mistakes in the future. Click here to learn more about creating a data model (also known as an entity relationship diagram).

4. Consistency is key

Data mappings, data normalization and data cleaning result in consistency. Once data is standardized and clean, it can be easily used across a myriad of applications. Some common applications in healthcare include clinical data used for digital health apps and intake protocols for provider schedules. Applications are most effective when powered and empowered by accurate data, which translates to improved patient outcomes and significant cost savings for health systems. 

These four steps won’t solve all of the healthcare industry’s data issues. However, they can help you start to solve your own organization’s data issues. With standardized, clean data, you can make better business decisions across departments. Additionally, you can save significant time for reporting, and can better explain and back up the value that your organization brings its clients. By tidying up your own data, you are doing your part in making healthcare work better for all.

Guest Blog: How to Prepare for Consumerism in Healthcare

Carrie Liken is the Head of Industry/GM - Healthcare at Yext, where she has visited with 230 health systems over the last year and a half. As a former Google employee and graduate of Harvard Kennedy School, Carrie provides deep knowledge of the health space and how technology impacts patient discovery and acquisition.

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Consumerism. This term is not new in healthcare. However, in visiting with over 228 health systems in the last year and a half, I can say that health systems are grappling with this concept and not really succeeding. To start, I’m more frequently hearing health systems refer to patients as consumers. And, they should be, because the patient is — in fact — a consumer, and there are specific things health systems can do to prepare for this shift. A consumer is defined as someone who purchases a good or service for personal use. Given that patients are starting to own more of their healthcare decisions and are becoming more financially responsible for their healthcare, it is only natural to begin to think of the patient more as a consumer and less as a ‘patient.’

In January of 2018, we conducted a study charting the evolving patient journey and found that patients exhibit similar behaviors when searching for healthcare as they do when they search for products. Our study showed that over 76% of people search for providers (rather than physical locations) and one of the key decision-points in the provider selection journey has to do with where the provider is located. (Yext Study 2016 and 2018) A Think with Google study in retail showed that 66% of people look for the location of the closest store when identifying where to find a product.

In this case, the provider is the health system’s “product”. Consider how patients are consumers in other parts of their lives: When a consumer wants to purchase a kitchen towel, all she needs to do is consult Amazon, perform a search for a kitchen towel, click on the kitchen towel product and the Buy Now button, and voila! she has a kitchen towel within 2 hours to 2 days (assuming she has a Prime Now or an Amazon Prime account). This flawless execution of search to purchase to receipt is the norm for a consumer, and one that the consumer — when becoming a patient — is jarringly something she is not experiencing for her healthcare. Search to purchase to receipt is easy in every vertical (think restaurants, hotels, flights, products, etc.) except in healthcare.

It is not easy for a patient as a consumer to find the right provider for the right treatment at a convenient time that both matches the patient’s and the provider’s schedules. But, the patient as a consumer is trained to expect that this should be easy, because it is easy in every other vertical that touches a patient’s life.

So how can health systems prepare for Consumerism in healthcare and meet the patient’s expectations for her healthcare as a consumer? You can take three critical steps:

  1. Organize Your Provider Data. Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc., are building public knowledge graphs that can answer any question a person asks of them. Health systems need to be responsible for ensuring that their internal knowledge graphs are able to feed the public knowledge graphs with accurate, consistent information to ensure the right answers are provided when a patient asks. The only way to do this is to ensure that your provider data is cleaned up and structured in a way that these public knowledge graphs can consume. How do you do this? Determine where your data currently lives (and in how many places) and start to consider how to pull it all together into one single source of truth. Without a base layer of knowledge about your providers, it will become increasingly more difficult to succeed in marketing in the intelligent future.

  2. Activate Your Provider Data through Syndication. There has been a 32% decline in visits to health system websites in the last year. (Yext study, 2018) Currently, 83% of people are visiting other microsites and micro experiences without ever reaching a health system website to make an appointment. (Yext study, 2018) It is all the more important that your correct provider data is fully activated and syndicated on third party sites to ensure brand consistency and patient acquisition. Don’t leave the patient experience up to third party sites without taking full control of that experience. You, as the health system, need to own the experience on and off your website, now more than ever.

  3. Schedule, Schedule, Schedule. Patients are consumers. They have high expectations in healthcare and are frequently disappointed by the digital experience. If you haven’t started to activate Online Appointment Scheduling within your health system, you’re missing a huge opportunity to provide a positive patient experience as well as address patient expectations for their healthcare. How many of those patients will opt to find another provider who does provide online appointment scheduling? By cleaning up your provider data and activating it through third party channels, it’s now up to you to close the deal in the final mile of the patient journey. For those health systems I’ve spoken to who have activated online appointment scheduling, I’ve heard that the patient who books via online appointment scheduling is more likely to no-show at a much lower rate. That is literally revenue contributing to the bottom line of a health system!

Your consumers expect more of your health system — and it’s only going to get more complicated. By taking these above-mentioned steps, you will undoubtedly be setting yourself up for the future of intelligent search in healthcare.

Is your IT department a strategic hero?


Hospitals and health systems are moving from being a cost center to being a strategic differentiator. However, this pace of transforming IT from a Keeping The Lights On (KTLO) cost center to a strategic enabler is slow. 

We recently surveyed 100 CIOs from the nation’s top health systems to get a feel for what the typical CIO of a large health system looks like and to better understand how CIOs are equipped to deal with the new age of healthcare IT.

The majority of top health system CIOs have backgrounds in running large system integration organizations. The jury is still out on how these CIOs will retool themselves to deliver strategic differentiation in the age of real time decision enablement and information flow. 
 

Average Age:

We started with a simple proxy of CIO readiness: Age. While the typical age of leaders in core technology companies in silicon valley is trending lower - based on our study, the average age of CIOs was slightly unexpected: nearly three quarters (70%) are over the age of 50, and close to 20% over the age of 60. The shift in HIT of moving to a more strategic position could be the reason for this statistic. It is becoming increasingly obvious that executives at health systems are realizing that IT leaders need to be more involved in the boardroom and not just from a “review and approval of large IT projects” standpoint. Now more than ever, it’s important for CIOs to work with their peers in identifying and formulating strategy on forward-thinking technology that can improve and automate business processes.

Number of years at the current health system:

What we found interesting about the data in the graph above was the lack of longevity these top CIOs had at their current position: Five of 54 CIOs who have been at the health system for five years or less did not start off as a CIO, meaning that they worked their way up to the leader position. Since the IT department has the most constituents and bear the most burden of maintaining core functions of a hospital, it may be becoming more common to bring in new eyes and ideas to help move the IT functions of a health system forward. Another thought is that IT leaders need to have some experience in implementing change management because they have to bring departments together in order to be successful in running all the technology of a health system. By switching health systems after a series of years, more experience and exposure to best practices from other environments is helping to propel this change. Possibly, these new best practices are being learned and are more common that the new phase of IT is more than just a systems integration function. 
 

Non-IT Experience:

A small minority (18%) of the CIOs surveyed had non-IT experience throughout their professional careers. These non-IT positions were medical/clinical (41%), operations (29%), consulting (24%) and project management (6%). While having a tremendous amount of experience in information technology is important, not having other business knowledge and experience can be somewhat crippling. Clearly, it is imperative for CIOs to have knowledge about infrastructure, platforms and integrations, but having experience outside of the IT world is just as important. The fact that can make or break a solution is knowing not only how to run the solution and keep it running but also knowing if the solution actually solves the problem and is realistic for its use case. When IT leaders have had additional experience outside of the IT realm, it can be very useful when evaluating technology solutions utilized 24/7 in a health system such as clinical solutions.
 

Non-healthcare experience:

Close to 60% of the CIOs have not had experience outside of the healthcare industry. The majority of the CIOs who have non-healthcare experience held those positions early in their careers and made the transition to healthcare shortly after. The industry has seen a recent trend of hiring executives outside of healthcare to bring in different perspectives on improving operations and the patient experience. Having a different view from another industry that is more technologically advanced than healthcare could be very important in the near future. As health systems compete more and more, new perspectives will help differentiate them from the rest. The same is true with IT. Even though technology is technology, CIOs need to be at the forefront of new and innovative advances that could help their organization. Instead of being the gatekeeper, the IT department should be the gate enablers and lead the guidance and support of useful technology for their peers and constituents.

Employed at more than two organizations prior to the current role:

Of the 62% that have worked for two other organizations outside of their current health system, 50% have worked for companies outside of healthcare. This could be another testament as to how health systems are bringing in more talent from other industries and different types and sizes of organizations. While this statistic shows dedication and loyalty to an organization, it could also promote the “this is how we have always done it” mentality which is common for people to have when they have worked at an organization for a long period of time. Fortunately through the increased usage of analytics, IT leaders are getting past the preference for experience over data. The utilization of and reliance on analytics is ever present and will not be losing importance anytime soon, if ever.