August 29, 2022
Many healthcare organizations are working to provide digital experiences that meet or exceed consumer expectations. But fragmented, inconsistent data is still a deep institutional problem. Data about key information, like available doctors, their specialties, hospital locations and more is siloed across platforms. This is especially the case in large health systems that have grown through acquisitions.
Information across multichannel systems needs to be unified, validated, governed, and properly distributed as part of a successful digital healthcare transformation. If you find a doctor on a provider search application but the call center doesn’t have this doctor in their database, this creates a frustrating user experience. The patient needs to hear the same facts with one voice, no matter which system they communicate through – if not, the organization risks loss of patients, missed appointments, or other misalignments that are costly at scale.
The reality is that many organizations show the same fact 8 different ways across 8 different systems, with different levels of accuracy or completeness. This is a terrible experience for the consumer. But with proper data and system alignment, it could be a great one.
So, what’s the good word, doc?
When hospitals get acquired, different groups of physicians and locations have data in disparate systems. The process of aligning the data may seem like a given as medical institutions merge. But the data migration and system integration often doesn’t get proper attention. A lack of a consistent taxonomy, or a categorization of facts, is a big risk. An ambulatory clinic can do a concussion assessment, but if a patient has a brain tumor, they need to see a specialist like a neurosurgeon, making taxonomy and data sharing critical.
Christus Health worked with Valtech to develop an intricate and detailed taxonomy to make provider and location search more relevant and convenient. If you have a sprained ankle, you search for the closest physician (or your primary care physician). This search would filter results by location. However, if you have a big heart problem, you would be willing to go farther out to get the best care, so the search would display results based on relevance as well as location. Christus Health’s taxonomy allows for both searches and displays what the user actually needs.
After taxonomy, another important factor to consider is having a unified source of truth to keep track of information like:
- Doctor credentials
- Doctor contracts
- Physician schedules
- And physician locations
If there is no unified source of truth, institutional siloes would own different pieces of the puzzle which makes it difficult to ensure a smooth and consistent user experience. If the HR database manages doctors’ credentials while the IT database tracks the locations where the doctors work, are those two systems tightly integrated?
Penn Medicine solved this problem by putting together a complex Master Data Management platform, as well as a business rule management system to assemble “truth” from 20 (yes, 20!) data sources. In partnership with Valtech, they successfully unified data across platforms.
There are many factors and details here that need careful attention to bring all these systems and all this information together in a sustainable way.
Which puzzle pieces do we need?
A website is not the holy grail. It is not the originating source of truth for all the information a healthcare system has; it should not feed data to all other platforms connected to a healthcare institution (like a hospital). This is a common mistake made by healthcare providers.
All data should come from a Master Data Management platform or a Content Logistics platform. Either of these can serve as the single source of truth that collects accurate data and serves as the point of origin for any other platform. This means that the website doesn’t “own” the source of truth, it delivers the content as a personalized marketing experience to users.
What’s more, call centers and chatbots, as the two most direct forms of communication with users, need to be tightly aligned when it comes to the information they deliver. Call centers tend to be managed entirely by an operations team or a patient logistics team. These teams do not generally communicate with the website content team, which creates a significant risk of misalignment. If a user is searching for information on Covid-19 vaccines, each of these resources (chatbot, call center, website) should have the same answers to questions like “Where can I get a vaccine?” and “Does this clinic accept walk-ins for vaccination?”.
EMR Consumer Health Portals like Epic and Cerner are important channels when it comes to patient retention. These portals are a unique patient experience with these healthcare systems’ resources. The information they provide needs to be aligned with the website, as well as any other means of communication.
For example, following surgery, a patient may be given a piece of paper detailing their post-operative instructions. If they decide to look up post-op instructions on the website or check their portal for information on post-operative care, all the information and messaging should be the same. If it isn’t, this would make for not only a frustrating but potentially harmful patient experience.
How do we solve this healthcare Rubik’s cube?
The secret ingredient is a move beyond siloed applications as conflicting sources of information, towards unification through Master Data Management platforms such as Kyruus and Yext, or Content Logistics platforms like Sitecore Content Hub.
Data unification holds the digital experience together. The cost of skipping or incorrectly completing this process will be substantial, corrupting any system or operating improvements made in the future. Think of it like solving a Rubik’s cube: if you don’t have the right information on how to solve it, the moves you make will only lead to more mismatched squares.
A close integration between the strategic and tactical processes related to the new digital experiences is what clarifies the data that is needed, in what form and with what metadata.
Put it all together! What are your next steps?
- People: The teams for digital, customer service, operations and clinical should all take active roles in this alignment. Direct and consistent lines of communication between these teams is essential to creating a unified and sustainable ecosystem.
- A governance model is also important to establish accountability, and it signals that data unification is not an afterthought, it is a big and intentional undertaking.
- Sustainability and change management: A sustainable solution is adaptable to change, is constantly being monitored and does not require manual updates on every platform that presents a piece of information. This has been particularly important in a pandemic context, when visitation policies were constantly being changed during the height of Covid-19.
Valtech has been there, done that. We can help!
Data alignment is the intersection between juggling dynamics in a healthcare institution and delivering a positive and consistent digital healthcare experience. This is where the rubber meets the road.
It may seem like an arduous and confusing effort, with many healthcare systems unaligned in their setup. However, while you may not know the current state of your data across systems and platforms, you also don’t know how good it can get!
The right solution for your organization is likely very custom and specific. Valtech’s experience in digital healthcare implementation helps to navigate the technical and institutional challenges when it comes to aligning your data across platforms.