Managing Data Supplier Relationships to Ensure Quality

By Doug Bates

4 December 2013

Data quality is the foundation of any data warehouse. As the old saying goes “garbage in – garbage out.”  If there are inconsistencies or irregularities in the data loaded into a data warehouse, all analyses based on those data are potentially flawed.

Healthcare data are complex, and even data from organizations well experienced in claims administration and data transmission contain errors from time to time. Having processes in place to detect and correct data problems is critical for any healthcare information platform, but even with the best of processes, errors from submitted data result in increased costs and often delay data warehouse updates.

Many MedInsight clients are dependent on multiple data supplier partners to provide source data for their healthcare data warehouse. Some are of these clients are self-insured employers requesting data from the organizations who administer their claims. Others are community or business coalitions and some are states building all payer claims databases. As the number of data sources increases, the complexity and potential for error increases.

Establishing strong partnerships with all your data suppliers is the one of the best ways support efficient data warehouse updates.

Different organizations have different relationships with their data suppliers, so the possible techniques for keeping data suppliers engaged in the success of a data warehouse often vary from one client to a next. Below are some ways to engage data suppliers in the project.

  • Notify data suppliers as early as possible when considering the implementation of a data warehouse. Ask about any technical or legal constraints that may impact their ability to fully participate.
  • Clearly define the data elements you will need to support the analyses you plan to produce, but don’t dictate a specific layout. If the data supplier can provide the required data elements in a layout they have already developed for other projects, this will greatly reduce the amount of time they need to produce their initial data submission and reduce the risk of error.
  • If appropriate, and agreed to by all parties, offer to share information back to the data suppliers. Creating a deliverable of value back to the data suppliers can help keep them interested in the success of the project.
  • If data are being purchased from the data supplier, or if the submission of data is included as part of a broader service contract, consider adding financial incentives (or penalties) into the contract for data being submitted on time and without error.
  • Ask the data suppliers to describe the types of data audits they will run on the data prior to submitting files.

All organizations are busy. Claims administrators have to focus on many different priorities to meet the needs of their customers, but if data suppliers are fully engaged in a data warehouse initiative, and incorporate data quality processes with each data submission, everyone will save time and money by avoiding rework.

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