Writ­ten by Jas­mine, Sum­mer Intern

Within any com­pany a cus­tomer may be listed under dif­fer­ent names in dif­fer­ent sys­tems, there may be mul­ti­ples of the same account, addresses may be incor­rect, or data may be incom­plete. In health­care, a typ­i­cal regional hos­pi­tal orga­ni­za­tion can have hun­dreds of health­care appli­ca­tions using mul­ti­ple ver­sions of these sys­tems. Such vari­a­tions will make a com­pany crum­ble under its feet if they are not aggres­sively man­aged. Poor data integrity will have a sig­nif­i­cantly neg­a­tive impact on the bot­tom line, either directly by increas­ing costs and reduc­ing results, or indi­rectly through decreased cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion and loy­alty. So how is this dealt with? Mas­ter Data Man­age­ment (MDM) is the method used to resolve data integrity prob­lems, which is one of the biggest strug­gles in any organization.

With that, what is MDM? MDM com­prises a set of processes and tools that con­sis­tently defines and man­ages the mas­ter set of data within an orga­ni­za­tion. MDM has the objec­tive of pro­vid­ing processes for col­lect­ing, con­sol­i­dat­ing and dis­trib­ut­ing data to ensure that accu­rate and con­sis­tent infor­ma­tion is shared across the enter­prise. Decision-​makers rely on this infor­ma­tion to make accu­rate and sound deci­sions. When prop­erly done, MDM stream­lines reli­able data shar­ing among per­son­nel and depart­ments. One of the pri­mary chal­lenges in man­ag­ing the mas­ter data is that it resides in many dif­fer­ent sys­tems, in many for­mats and within many dif­fer­ent depart­ments through­out an enter­prise. The data may be man­aged through a mul­ti­tude of dif­fer­ent processes, keep­ing in mind new sys­tems and processes are being imple­mented all the time. Try­ing to bring mul­ti­ple sys­tems and processes together is chal­leng­ing. Key areas that need to be addressed are syn­tac­tic and seman­tic inter­op­er­abil­ity. Syn­tac­tic inter­op­er­abil­ity spec­i­fies the data for­mat and com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­to­col, which ensures that dis­parate sys­tems can com­mu­ni­cate and exchange infor­ma­tion. Seman­tic inter­op­er­abil­ity, on the other hand addresses the mean­ing of the data.

In many cases the data that needs to be shared may have sim­i­lar over­all func­tions but have two com­pletely dif­fer­ent mean­ings or two com­pletely dif­fer­ent words with the same mean­ing and many times are only inter­preted within con­text. For instance, the word “cold” where a patient that tells his doc­tor that he thinks he has had a cold for one week, and another patient in a hos­pi­tal room telling the nurse he feels cold. Another exam­ple may the same Hemo­glo­bin A1C blood test may be named Hb A1C in one sys­tem, Gly­co­sy­lated Hemo­glo­bin in another, but con­sist of exactly the same results. A third exam­ple may be in doc­u­men­ta­tion for the words “heart” and “car­diac” are dif­fer­ent words but clin­i­cians use them inter­change­ably. MDM addresses these issues by defin­ing both the syn­tac­tic and seman­tic mean­ing of the data for each sys­tem to ensure that data is mean­ing­ful across var­i­ous sys­tems.

MDM must com­ple­ment accu­rate Iden­tity Man­age­ment (IdM) to win the bat­tle for data integrity. When asked to define IdM many will sim­ply say it is the use of sin­gle sign-​on or pass­word man­age­ment. This def­i­n­i­tion is far from ade­quate. IdM is not merely one idea or con­cept; it is com­prised of many com­po­nents that together pro­vide a com­pre­hen­sive solu­tion. The core objec­tive of IdM is to make sure there is only one pos­si­ble iden­tity for every indi­vid­ual. It also deals with role-​based access that con­trols that user’s access to resources within that sys­tem. Access con­trol uses mul­ti­ple com­po­nents, such as sin­gle sign-​on and pass­word man­age­ment. Now you can see why IdM is some­times defined by these com­po­nents. In the health­care set­ting, IdM dri­ves role-​based access to patient records for physi­cians and the med­ical team keep­ing pry­ing eyes away from per­sonal health infor­ma­tion. For patients, IdM iden­ti­fies the right indi­vid­ual giv­ing them access to their per­sonal health record. In the gov­ern­ment, the Depart­ment of Motor Vehicle’s dri­vers licens­ing sys­tem pro­vides a sim­ple exam­ple of IdM: the State driver’s license num­ber iden­ti­fies a spe­cific licensed dri­ver.

It would be very frus­trat­ing if you were pulled over and the offi­cer told you that your license was sus­pended because they got you mixed up with some­one else. It would be just as frus­trat­ing to get your doctor’s bill sent to col­lec­tions because their sys­tem had the incor­rect address! The most suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies are those who place MDM/ ​IdM at the cen­ter of their infor­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy pro­ce­dures as it improves oper­a­tions, pro­tects the customer’s infor­ma­tion, and dri­ves excel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice. The inter­est in MDM is a result of the lessons that orga­ni­za­tions have learned dur­ing their suc­cesses and strug­gles to imple­ment things like patient iden­tity management.