HIMSS: Can't we all just get along, and agree dashboards assist with data quality

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ATLANTA--If there is a perceived problem of data quality, then all of the planning for a dashboard implementation is irrelevant, according to Jonathan Rothman, MBA, principal at Emergency Medicine Business Intelligence, who presented an educational session today at the HIMSS10 conference. Also, for a dashboard to have relevance within an organization, the employees must fully comprehend its role, he said.

This understanding requires education and training of dashboards for employees to gain acceptance throughout the organization. “You have to clarify expectations why the employees feel empowered and have consistent targets throughout,” Rothman stated.

Rothman, along with Joyce Zerkich, MBA, project manager for RelWare, hosted the session to bridge the gap between technical and non-technical healthcare workers to understand the differences of perception about digital dashboards, and address how to incorporate the dashboard into the organizational culture.

“It’s interesting that the perception of data quality is different between the data aggregation/management industry and those that are reading the info and making decisions based on the information,” stated Rothman.

“Once you build or select a dashboard, how do you get your organization to use what you spent money on,” stated Rothman.

Dashboards must provide direction and concise meaning, Rothman stated. “If you don’t have a target or key performance indicator (KPI), don’t waste your time,” he said. Usually first implemented in financial departments, the objective for a dashboard is to integrate the executive dashboard interpretation and operations improvement.

Looking at the need and the mission of the organization, Zerkich presented a dashboard implementation maturity model, a five-stage model to provide a basis on where an organization might fall in terms of implementation. The maturity model reads:

  1. Initial stage: Processes are unpredictable;
  2. Managed stage: Process is characterized for projects and is often reactive;
  3. Defined stage: Process is characterized for the organization and is proactive;
  4. Quantitatively managed stage: Process is measured and controlled; and
  5. Optimizing stage: Focus on process improvement.

Zerkich suggested to disseminate four or five key organizational metrics with targets and thresholds that are drillable to begin using to improve those within the organization. “Ensure dashboard evolution as organizational priorities change,” remarked Zerkich. Objectives should be translating into every day strategic thinking, Zerkich said.

Whether attendees’ organization have implemented or are thinking of implementing a dashboard, Zerkich suggested some tips through her own experience:

  • Ensure employee acceptance with a targeted plan;
  • Provide clarity to ensure vertical integration. Targets need to be clear and the team needs to understand them and connect their work with the metrics/targets; and
  • Make sure you have a communication plan, just like a marketing plan.

Dashboards need to have a feedback loop, Zerkich stressed. “Does the team take the metrics to heart, do they understand the metrics?” Zerkich asked.

Along with making sure that metrics are well-defined and everyone understands them, she said that the organization should publish the dashboard so the staff see’s what’s recorded.

After four or five, a balanced scorecard could then open up the dashboard to the enterprise. “Know when it’s time to dig deeper,” Zerkich said. Executives should “[t]ake a deep breath and accept that change is constant” while continually moving to level five," she said. "Don’t get discouraged if you just have an Excel spreadsheet. It’s a start and helps you look at what’s going on in your organization."

Moving towards a mature dashboard can be disruptive for an organization, according to the panelists but the payoffs will align staff to the organization’s mission and vision.