We recently outlined the key steps to take your data normalization project to the next level or get started at a high level. This post focuses on the first step toward implementation: obtaining executive buy-in.
Robin’s challenge: manual data management
While consulting on a data normalization project for a large health plan, I worked with Robin, an application implementation/support analyst in the Information Systems department. Robin was responsible for configuring applications across multiple departments and lines of service. For the data normalization project, she was assigned the role of integrating a terminology server with the health plan’s data warehouse. This was a critical step, as the terminology server was already receiving and normalizing data for claims determinations, but the results could not yet be put to use. Unfortunately, nearly all of Robin’s time was already committed to updating claims systems to reflect the latest coverage policies – a high-value task in day-to-day operations. It looked like the data normalization project would have to limp along indefinitely while Robin relied on whatever scraps of time she could eke out of each week.
This was escalated to upper management. The VP of Technology explained the rationale for using data normalization to centralize processing of claims across the organization. Without data normalization, the health plan would be stuck with its redundant and incompatible departmental claims processing systems, with all their well-known inconsistencies and inefficiencies when it comes to managing data. The centralized system would allow the health plan to generate claim responses that were more consistent, timely, and accurate, improving provider satisfaction.
With an executive supporting the strategic importance of the project, the team made the tough call to allow Robin to finish off the data normalization project while deferring and reallocating some of her other daily tasks. This was the turning point in the project as it communicated how important this project was for the entire company. Ultimately this resulted in a successful on-time rollout of the project, fulfilling its value proposition.
The need for executive support in data normalization
The dilemma Robin faced is typical. Like other strategic investments, data management projects will be challenged to compete with other immediate business needs for funding and staff. Organizations face never-ending cycles of configuration, maintenance, and upgrades of information technologies such as EHRs, claims processing systems, clinical information systems, and enterprise management systems. There is an inexhaustible need to configure reports to respond to business needs such as accreditation, meaningful use, ICD-10-CM conversion, and advanced payment models.
In Robin’s case, the health plan’s data normalization project avoided being derailed because senior management endorsed its clear value proposition. Given the inevitable challenges these projects will face, it is critical to develop a strong foundation of executive support to ensure a commitment to seeing the project through. In short, data normalization efforts must be organizational projects, not IT projects. The table below presents potential value propositions for key provider and payer stakeholders.