I had the good fortune to work in the information services department at UMass Memorial Healthcare for several years prior to joining Informatica. It was pretty clear when I was there that the investments UMass Memorial was making in information systems was the future direction of healthcare everywhere, and that the lessons being learned there had applicability across the broader healthcare market. Since joining Informatica, I have had the opportunity to meet with a wide cross section of our healthcare customers and prospects, and I can confirm that this is in-fact absolutely true. A good case in point is the recent discussion I had with Karen Marhefka, Associate CIO at UMass Memorial, about the challenges of poor data quality and the adverse impact this can have on migrating existing data to new applications.
Our discussion is captured as part of a webinar, Let’s Talk Healthcare with Informatica: Electronic Health Record Data Migration. Perhaps the highlight is when Karen likens data to apples. To paraphrase – “You think you have a bushel of nice shiny fresh apples, and then you realize all you have is a basket of rotten apple sauce.” Now, I’m not sure what a basket of rotten applesauce looks like exactly, but I’m certain it can’t be good. The same is true of poor quality data, and the last thing we want to do in healthcare is spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new information systems, and load them up with bushels of bad quality historical data from legacy applications. The first step in preventing this from happening is to profile and understand your existing data so that you know what is good and reliable before you load it into your new systems.
For data that is not currently good, inspect it and decide if there are ways to clean it up, apply rules, or combine it with data from other sources to make it good. Then you can choose to load it into the new system or put it in some type of archive for future reference. And what’s left will be data that are of poor quality, and cannot be corrected or made better for a variety of reasons. It may be useful for some purpose, but just like rotten applesauce, I sure wouldn’t want it in my medical record.