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California physicians demonstrate clear need for better data quality

Rachel Wheeler Archive

Perhaps nowhere is data quality more important than in health care. Providers of medical coverage have countless consumers' lives in their hands every day, and they rely on accurate data to assess their performance - where they're succeeding, where they're failing and how they could do better. If they collect low-quality data, they may find themselves making poor decisions that put people's health in danger.

Luckily, there's an independent organization looking to hold private firms accountable for improving the quality of health data. The Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute is surveying each of the 50 United States to determine where improvements must be made.

California is one state that could be doing better. According to California HealthLine, the state received a "C" grade for the accessibility of data on physician quality. The organization found that transparent, high-quality data was only accessible to 37 percent of physicians in the state, meaning that the majority of doctors were forced to rely on inaccurate knowledge or pure guesswork.

Francois de Brantes, co-author of the report on California, told the news source he was "shocked" at the findings.

"I honestly thought the availability of information on the quality of physicians was far more prevalent," de Brantes said. "It's a very mixed bag."

Doctors have fairly high demands when it comes to health care data. They don't just want their files to be free from typical errors, such as incorrect contact information or typos. They need their data to meet a higher standard.

Up to date
People's health statuses are always in flux. If physicians don't have access to the latest information, they might take action on conditions that are no longer relevant, thus endangering the patient. It's imperative that health care firms provide doctors with only the latest data.

Available to consumers
Health care operations require transparency to run smoothly. To that end, health data should be made available to the consumers themselves at all times, in addition to flowing freely between health care organizations and physicians. Open lines of dialogue are an important component of quality care.

From independent third parties
With health data, it's always necessary to consider the source. Physicians can't always be trusted to compile accurate data because they're preoccupied with making themselves look good, and health care organizations are focused primarily on saving money. The best health data comes from independent third parties, who have fewer ulterior motives and can thus focus once and for all on data quality.