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Chief Data Officers play increasingly prominent role in business

December 16, 2014

Stethoscope and Laptop

The ongoing digitization of patient information in the U.S. is the result of several dynamics working in synergy. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act continues to expand the enrollment of individuals into medical plans, including Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance. Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires that hospitals and practices that wish to maximize reimbursements demonstrate meaningful use of electronic health records under threat of payment adjustments. Ultimately, providers need to collect more information from a growing pool of patients.

Without proper handling of this glut of data, information is sure to become unwieldy and inefficiently used. One way healthcare managers can effectively handle this information is by hiring Chief Data Officers.

“The [CDO] is a business leader who creates and executes data and analytics strategies to drive business value,” reads a whitepaper published by the IBM Institute for Business Value. “The role is responsible for defining, developing, and implementing the strategy and methods by which the organization acquires, manages, analyzes, and governs data. It also carries the strategic responsibility to drive the identification of new business opportunities through more effective and creative use of data.”

CDOs put data to work
Improper management of the influx of patient information not only causes problems with organization, but also creates situations in which data essentially lies fallow and useless. According to the IBM Institute, CDOs are in charge of figuring out how the data can be of use to the provider and, in some cases, monetized or translated into better services. For example, the CDO’s job description at a hospital in Seattle noted how the officer’s duties include “exploring factors that influence the health and care of our patients, strategic development and resource management of the hospital, [and] the national levels of support for the sciences as well as economic modeling of Seattle,” according to Medcity News.

The news source also noted that CDOs are essential but would not necessarily replace the positions filled by chief information officers or chief technology officers. Instead, all of these administrators would work side-by-side on the same projects, and with a CDO, pertinent patient data does not have to be managed by the same individuals who are in charge of the technology.

EHRs may be a likely source of the incoming flood of information. According to the CMS, meaningful use of EHRs includes the collection and transmission of data on immunization, syndromic surveillance, and reportable lab results. Not all of the information collected through EHRs and attached to biospecimens may be pertinent for researchers. If any of this identifiable information is attached to patient samples, it may be advisable for interested researchers to turn to procurement services who know how to keep samples organized using only the relevant data.

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