Health Policy February 18, 2019
Data governance: Driving value in healthcare

By Paul Henderson - World Healthcare Journal

Healthcare organisations and systems need to be agile to respond to constant change.

As a key pillar of a data and analytics strategy, data governance defines how an organisation manages its data assets. A data governance strategy should reflect an organisation’s strategic goals, risk appetite, culture, economic and regulatory environment. Data governance can help organisations drive value in the services they provide.

Analytics will be one of the most valuable tools for transforming healthcare in the coming decade and will enable leaders and decision makers to manage the massive changes they are facing. Understanding and harnessing analytics will enable these leaders to become innovators and, at the same time, mitigate the risks associated with change. Yet, despite the huge potential of analytics to help improve care quality, make services more efficient and reduce costs, healthcare organisations around the world find it hard to use data to its full potential.

Healthcare executives should be aware that technology alone will not create an effective data governance function”

When healthcare organisations implement new technologies to support business and clinical transformation, my experience is that they typically focus on two levels of impact: The immediate tactical benefit of the technology on workflow and related key performance metrics; and the strategic benefit from taking newly available data and integrating it with existing data sets to create new value. Most tend to focus on the first set of benefits and neglect the substantial opportunities presented by the latter.

For healthcare organisations to truly realise the potential of data’s analytical power, they have to shift their approach to address both these levels of change.


Demystifying data governance

Data governance is a foundational element of digital transformation and any data and analytics strategy. Without a rigorous, sustainable data governance program, healthcare organisations and systems will struggle to advance their analytics capabilities into key emerging areas such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, personalised healthcare and population health management. Many healthcare leaders that I have worked with understand the importance of data governance, but have initially struggled to:

  • Understand where their data lives and how to access it;

  • Put in place effective processes to protect data from threats of inappropriate release and access; and

  • Acquire and develop the right resources and skill sets to manage healthcare data.

Often my first step is to demystify data governance and to help clients understand how improving it will realise value for patients and carers and their organisations. The common questions they initially ask are:

  • How does the development of a strong data governance function help to improve health outcomes?

  • How important is it to have robust data governance regulations in place?

  • Can we devise a governance strategy which safeguards privacy while also enabling clinicians and researchers to access the information they need to improve outcomes?

  • Can and should we share data across organisations in order to help improve healthcare outcomes? What are the challenges and issues of this?

  • Can healthcare data be used as an asset which can be monetised in order to assist with funding?

Working with the Global KPMG Data and Analytics network, and with clients across the world, I have developed a practical approach to data governance. This is based on four main components and is supported by enabling data management services and data quality tools.


Managing data in the future

Healthcare executives should be aware that technology alone will not create an effective data governance function. To truly enable, embed and continuously improve on the key components of data governance, organisations should adopt a capability framework that incorporates people, processes and technology.

The following framework identifies the essential data governance capabilities in these three areas, to achieve a holistic data governance function. There are many complexities of implementing and sustaining effective data governance and being able to evaluate organisations and systems data governance maturity. In the coming decade, there are many strategic considerations that will shape healthcare organisations’ approach to data governance. National or jurisdictional privacy legislation, data sharing practices and certain technologies will challenge healthcare leaders charged with managing data assets.

These issues are evolving rapidly and are likely to test the limits of leader’s ability to adapt to the changing environment.


E: paul.henderson@kpmg.co.uk | T: +44 7900 053439


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