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.