The Healthcare Hub

Master Data Management

posted by: David walsh
Friday, April 19, 2013

Taking control of the item master is one of the most important initiatives a hospital can undertake because data integrity is the super glue that holds everything together. The item master must be a hospital’s single source of truth because it has so many reaching arms and touches so many business and clinical processes. When data is inaccurate, incomplete or completely missing, healthcare organizations waste countless hours cleaning up errors and creating workarounds. Furthermore, they make decisions based on false data and lose money in a business environment where every penny counts. 

 But provider organizations are often afraid to implement a master data management strategy because it’s a huge undertaking and they fear it will be disruptive to their business. But is ignoring the issue a better alternative?
When I joined Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in January 2012 I took a hard look at our supply chain and found it nearly impossible to obtain accurate data to make educated business decisions. There was no standardization in product descriptions, manufacturer information was missing or inaccurate for thousands of items and we had $33M in non-file spend. We knew we were wasting time and losing revenue through bad data and processes. It wasn’t something anyone did intentionally, it just happens to a healthcare organization as it evolves and different people touch the data at different times without outlined practices or procedures.
So we embarked on a journey to strengthen our data integrity from the core item master out through everything it touches. Today we leverage an automated content management solution to maintain a single source of truth within our item master. This data feeds multiple clinical and business systems for organization-wide efficiency and accuracy.
The journey wasn’t necessarily easy, but it was worth it. Here are some of the lessons we learned in the process:
  • Establish a strong strategy for not only cleaning up your data but also for maintaining its integrity over time. Put standardized processes and protocols into place to avoid reverting back to old inferior practices.
  • Build relationships with clinical staff to open their eyes to what we in supply chain really do and the challenges we face. Obtain their input when standardizing product descriptions to prevent “free-form” purchases and drive on-file spend by enabling them to easily find the products they need within the item master.
  • Educate and empower supply chain staff to make the right decisions for your organization. Encourage your buyers to ask questions, such as how often a product will be purchased to determine if it should be entered into the item master. Emphasize the importance of their roles and how their actions impact the bottom line.
David Walsh and others will be conducting a leadership workshop at 1 p.m. on Monday, May 20 at the GHX Healthcare Supply Chain Summit entitled Build Your Master Data Management Strategy. For more information visit