Particularly since the COVID-19 hurricane has hit the healthcare system, health systems are struggling to manage and validate even basic data on providers, according to a new research study looking at the impact of such inaccuracies on operational efficiency.
The healthcare business of LexisNexis Risk Solutions surveyed more than 100 providers across the industry, including independent hospitals, teaching hospitals, independent physician groups and federally qualified health centers to get a sense of how they were tackling the provider data problem.
While maintaining the integrity of data like provider addresses and phone numbers isn’t terribly sexy, it’s important, especially with the pandemic increasing the importance of smooth care coordination. This is a particularly bad time to force providers to spend time, say, digging up an accurate fax number to send over a referral. However, despite spending an estimated $2 billion a year industry-wide to maintain this data, it’s usually riddled with errors.
According to LexisNexis, basic information organizations have on their providers – such as their location, specialty, contact information and availability – is often flawed. Common errors include unlisted office locations, incorrect contact details and inaccurate reports as to whether the provider accepts new patients.
However, it would be wise to tackle this problem, survey respondents said. In fact, 63% reported that better provider data governance would help improve care coordination and 53% said it would help improve data integrity.
The thing is, it seems that few organizations have put the resources in place needed to make this shift. Lack of resources to support proper data governance was the second biggest challenge organizations face, according to 44% of all respondents.
The most obvious fix seems to be focusing responsibility for this task more tightly. As things stand, responsibility for maintaining provider data seems to be rather scattered, survey data suggests. Almost two-thirds of survey respondents had jobs that involved direct responsibility for governing provider data, but their titles cut across varied departments, including director of IT, director of solutions, data scientists, and manager of data quality. Just 18% of organizations reported having a dedicated data governance department in charge of provider data.
Given this lack of focus, it’s hardly surprising that these respondents weren’t sure where the provider data buck stopped. In fact, while 38% of respondents cited the IT department as the owner of this information, the other responses were all over the map. Forty-six percent of respondents saw this lack of clear ownership as a major data governance issue within their organization.
While the study doesn’t address this issue directly, what may be happening here is that maintaining provider data isn’t getting enough support because it’s largely a thankless job. If having accurate provider data is important to healthcare organizations, they’ll need to take gathering, structuring and validating it seriously.