Healthcare Data Quality and Integrity: Risks and Rewards for Medical Providers

John Lynn

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As the healthcare industry embraces digital technologies, more health data will become available to doctors, nurses, data scientists and other medical professionals. Unfortunately, as electronic data capture has proliferated, many organizations have run into major issues related to healthcare data quality and integrity. The two largest issues are mismatched or duplicate patient records and low-quality clinical data.

Research from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology found that 7 out of every 100 medical records are mismatched or duplicates. The report points out that this number represents the average number of duplicate or mismatched patients in an organization, which means some healthcare providers have a much higher number of inaccurate files.

The other big issue is low-quality data in health IT systems. Much of this is a result of poorly implemented health IT software that is producing below-standard documentation. Plus, when used incorrectly, electronic health records can perpetuate misinformation. Once a provider has filled out an electronic file, it is often hard to correct it, and incorrect documentation quickly propagates to other systems.

These two issues put organizations at risk, since poor data quality can significantly affect patient safety. When doctors and nurses have an incomplete or inaccurate patient file, there is a risk they will treat the patient incorrectly, since poor clinical documentation often omits essential information or perpetuates false information. Whenever patient safety is compromised, it may also lead to medical liability issues. The industry has started to see malpractice lawsuits due to poor-quality information in health IT systems, but these types of cases will likely increase over the next several years. Any lawsuit has consequences for medical providers, but cases based on patient safety and low-quality data have the potential to be incredibly damaging to a provider or hospital brand.

However, there are tremendous rewards for healthcare organizations that commit to fixing these issues. For one, most current and future health IT regulations require hospitals to report data, and the quality and integrity of information is essential if providers are going to meet these regulations.

Further, population health and precision medicine efforts are based on data. Organizations that can trust their data will be ready and able to transform the way they provide care to patients, and a results-based approach will win them the trust of their target market. Trustworthy data will also be essential as interoperability becomes a reality — the right data means healthcare organizations can operate more efficiently and provide improved patient experiences across the care continuum.

The present and future of healthcare is built on the back of data. Healthcare organizations should make the effort to improve their healthcare data quality and health data management to ensure a bright, competitive future in the industry.

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