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Data Quality: Taking It Personally

by Jack Santos  |  January 20, 2011  |  Comments Off on Data Quality: Taking It Personally

I have been spending a lot of time in hospitals lately, not as a hospital CIO (or a patient), but as a visitor.  Makes for some interesting comparisons about use of IT in different facilities.   During my last visit, I noticed some data quality issues.

Data quality, especially in healthcare, has been a topic for Gartner research in a variety of ways.  One of the most provocative was Joe Bugajski’s post about how an electronic  health record nearly killed him.

Well, my recent observation about Data Quality (DQ) in  a healthcare setting was not nearly as life threatening, but provoked some interesting questions.

The patient I was visiting had the prerequisite wrist band, with a birth date of April fourth.  That matched the chart, and the medication label, and the room label.  But I knew for a fact that her birth date was NOT April fourth, but April second.

I mentioned this loudly in a roomful of visitors, without much reaction (mostly shrugged shoulders).  Her immediate family’s reaction was “Yeah, that’s been an like that all her life”.  In fact, this patient had THREE birthdates: her actual one (April 2nd), her certificate (April 4th) and her Tax ID related birth date (April 6th) – the latter two from two different documents, both transcribed wrongly at birth.

But what was really interesting was the resulting stories of wrong birth dates from the people in the room.  You see, birth date discrepancies are not that uncommon.  Take for instance the person who said they were born in November, but her birth date was registered for the following January – for tax purposes.  So officially she’s a January baby. But they still celebrate in November.

It just goes to show you that as much as we in IT strive for certitude, and clear capture/processes/definitions…data will always be messy.  And Data Quality will always be an issue.  It’s just the human condition.

Think birth dates are an outlier? Well, let’s start talking about names…

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Category: healthcare  information-management  

Tags: data-management  healthcare  information  privacy  

Jack Santos
Research VP
7 years at Gartner
40 years IT industry

Jack Santos is a Research Vice President with Gartner, part of the Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation team within the Gartner for IT Leaders product. He focuses on enterprise architecture and technology trends. Mr. Santos' specific area of research covers individual development, leadership and management practices for enterprise architects, EA innovation, and collaboration approaches. Read Full Bio

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