How early data governance paves the way for advanced IT efforts


University of Mississippi Medical Center Chief Health Information Officer John Showalter says he gets strange looks when he tells people his organization worked 18 months on data governance without producing a single report.

“You want unsexy? All that time was spent on procedures and protocols with no analytics,” he explains in a Healthcare IT News article.

But in the 14 months since, his organization has produced 40 data visual apps and 1,200 reports with just five report writers because that work so clearly defined the governance rules, he says.

UMMC is sending massive amounts of data to the cloud for clinical decision support and performing predictive analytics. It’s also generating geospatial analytics looking and socioeconomic and environmental factors affecting health. For instance, it has an app showing pollen counts by block for asthma patients.

Though he calls the initial governance work “extremely painful," he’s convinced it was necessary groundwork for the subsequent data projects.

Likewise, Tina Foster, vice president of business advisor services at Emeryville, California-based RelayHealth, calls governance essential to truly harnessing data and putting it to work, but says awareness is not widespread. Many times, she says, organizations think they’re addressing governance, but their work is actually just reporting.

According to Elizabeth Stedina, director of the Dartmouth Analytics Institute and director of analytics at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, governance efforts at the healthcare system are breaking new ground and no one policy can cover it all. 

It’s a struggle to find balance between making data accessible and providing governance that is consistent and accurate, she says.