Data Governance in Health Care: Skills for Managing Health Data

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A doctor enters patient data on a digital tablet.As organizations have made the transition from paper files to electronic records, proper data management has become essential. Organizing and securing a company’s data through data management increases productivity, protects the company and its employees from data theft or loss, and increases revenue. Data management—sometimes called data resource management—consists of acquiring, storing, analyzing, using, managing, and disposing of data. One aspect of the data management process is data governance, which is part of an organization’s strategy for managing data.

Data governance can play a vital role in data management for the fields of business, health care, science, and engineering. As it structures and governs essential data in an organization, data governance provides a framework for managers and employees to ensure the ethical use of information. Data governance in health care plays a particularly important role because it’s a vital component of comprehensive patient care strategies. To effectively develop and implement data governance strategies for health care organizations, analytics professionals should consider earning an online Master of Business Analytics degree.

What Is Data Governance and How Does it Apply to Health Care?

Data governance determines who’s authorized to access, use, and manage data. According to the Data Governance Institute, data governance “is a system of decision rights and accountabilities for information-related processes, executed according to agreed-upon models which describe who can take what actions with what information, and when, under what circumstances, using what methods.”

In the context of health care, data governance applies to a health care facility’s patient and operational data, such as electronic health records (EHRs). Strong data governance helps ensure patient safety and enable effective strategies for visualizing, interpreting, and analyzing health data.

Data governance in health care allows physicians, surgeons, and nurses to store patient data securely, so they can trust that the data hasn’t been tampered with when they access it again. As data grows over time, professionals can access patient records to identify medical patterns. For example, during a routine examination, a doctor records a patient’s blood pressure. If the patient’s blood pressure is higher at the next checkup, and higher again at the checkup after that, the doctor can use the recorded data to draw conclusions about the patient. Using the information stored in the patient’s EHR, the doctor can prescribe medication or help the patient establish a plan for lowering high blood pressure.

Since data governance provides health care experts with a system of protected and secure data, doctors can trust the information they access in EHRs. Patients can also rest assured that no one can access or tamper with their medical records since data governance only permits access to authorized medical experts.

Data Governance in Times of Crisis

Although data governance provides medical facilities and other health care organizations with many benefits, deploying effective data governance strategies during a crisis can be particularly difficult. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about several challenges for data governance in health care.

Since the outbreak swept across the world so suddenly, proper medical facilities have sometimes been filled to capacity and health care workers have been stretched thin. Accessing patient records from field hospitals presents a variety of problems for health care professionals who previously had access through secure work platforms and had more consistent shifts with specific patients. Nurses, doctors, and other health care professionals now need to access and enter data from nontraditional locations, which poses a potential security risk as data governance policies may not be as strong in field hospitals. Patient records, data, and information can be ineffectively stored and protected or even lost or tampered with as a result.

With the growing outbreak of COVID-19 cases, health professionals are working with many more patients than usual and have less time to spend with each patient. This surge in patient numbers and illness severity puts stress on the entire health care system, including data governance. If nurses or other health care experts can’t access accurate data about their patients exactly when they need it, the patients won’t receive the care they need.

Effectively and efficiently measuring the number of positive cases also presents a challenge for analytics professionals. Tracking the number of COVID-19 cases and treatment successes is essential for capacity planning in medical facilities and field hospitals, as well as for saving lives. At the same time, the process of collecting, measuring, and reporting data must protect data privacy and include strong data governance policies.

The Skills for Dynamic Data Governance in Health Care

The role of analytics professionals in data governance is very important. Information governance and data governance in health care are essential for identifying and accurately meeting the needs of patients. Doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other primary care providers rely on the data governance system to make life-or-death decisions about their patients and therefore need analytics professionals to preserve and protect data integrity.

Strong leadership and interpersonal communication skills, as well as technical and analytical skills, are essential for individuals tasked with creating and overseeing a health care organization’s data governance strategies. Analytics professionals should understand information technology (IT) policies to make decisions about the software and hardware an organization uses. They also need to be aware of changes in the field of data management and data analytics to ensure that they understand the effect of data regulations and compliance initiatives.

Explore a Rewarding Career in Data Governance

During a time of crisis or not, data governance plays an essential role in health care. It allows facilities to protect patient records and allows doctors to recognize trends over time. Individuals interested in the role of data governance in health care can explore Ohio University’s Online Master of Business Analytics. The program is designed to help individuals cultivate the core skills needed to provide optimal data governance. If you’re interested in pursuing a career as an analytics professional, learn more about how the program can help you pursue your professional goals. 

Recommended Readings

Data Mining in Business: What Is It, and How Can It Be Used?
Big Data Analytics Tools and Resource for Identifying Emerging Business Trends
The Future of Business Analytics: Trends in Data and Business Intelligence


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Becker’s Hospital Review, “The Right Way for Health Systems to Use Data Analytics in COVID-19 Planning”
CIO, “What Is Data Governance? A Best Practices Framework for Managing Data Assets”
Computer Weekly, “Four Risks to Data Privacy and Governance Amid COVID-19”
Data, “Defining Data Governance”
Forbes, “Data Governance, AI and Healthcare: An Exciting New World of Health Provision”
HealthITAnalytics, “The Role of Healthcare Data Governance in Big Data Analytics”
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