Patient Demographic Data Quality Framework



Communication practices foster effective internal and external communication about the management of patient demographic data which are implemented, published, followed, and refined based on feedback.

Introductory Notes

Improving data quality for patient demographic data requires collaboration among stakeholders across the lifecycle from creation or acquisition to archiving or deletion. For example, matching and linking patients’ data across the healthcare continuum relies on sophisticated algorithms that depend on the accuracy, availability, and interoperability of patient demographic data.

Improving patient demographic data quality requires collaboration and clear, timely communication among all stakeholders. Consistent and accurate communication enables a consistent understanding among stakeholders and ensures receipt of information about enhancements or changes to standards, processes, and procedures. Since patient demographic data will be used to improve patient care for the foreseeable future, its management, modifications, and improvements will continue to require effective communications over time.

“Communications” comprises important activities that enhance collaboration. It typically includes policies, plans, roles, responsibilities, and methods for informing all relevant internal and external stakeholders about the management of patient demographic data. If communications best practices are effectively operational, the following benefits can be realized:

  • Improved common understanding of what patient demographic data is needed, what it means, how it should be captured, and how it is represented – which also enables a stronger level of control over the data;
  • Increased participation in data governance among stakeholders who either produce or consume data while conducting their business processes;
  • Reinforced consistent understanding of essential concepts – raising the knowledge threshold;
  • Decreased duration and complexity of decision-making affecting multiple stakeholders;
  • Increased advance notice of change impacts to business processes, data stores, or data exchange, enabling timely planning.

Typically, when organizations establish a new policy, it is not considered effective until it has been officially communicated according to the organization’s standard rollout method for enforcing new direction, also referred to as “promulgation.” Promulgation of patient demographic policies, data standards, and processes should be conducted through existing channels, consistent with the organization’s communications plan.

Multiple communication channels can be employed, and each organization’s structure will determine which ones will yield the best results. While in-person events (e.g., regular meetings, structured workshops, town hall events, in-person instruction, etc.) are usually best for ensuring mutual understanding, they are not always possible due to demands on stakeholder time, geographic distribution, etc. Other methods may be employed according to the organization’s culture and preferences, such as email announcements, a portal, a shared repository, a newsletter, etc. The methods used, frequency, and timing of communications should be defined within a communications plan for patient demographic data management.

It is a best practice to communicate policies, standards, and processes – which instruct recipients on what must be adhered to, complied with, or executed – in advance of the target adoption date and any compliance checks. A feedback process should be established to support, for example, stakeholders’ questions, recommendations, and other similar comments. Measurement of the effectiveness of communications can be assessed through the use of adoption metrics. For example, use metrics to determine if a new activity step in the patient registration process is adopted (e.g., verify whether or not a returning patient validated his/her existing data). A count of how often this was accomplished based on the number of returning patient visits would provide a success measure of the communication about the process modification.

Published policies, standards, processes, procedures, and guidelines should be easy to locate and access for all relevant stakeholders. If a centralized electronic catalog is established for that purpose, it should be maintained to ensure that assets are up to date, and a method should exist whereby updates can be effectively communicated to impacted stakeholders.

Additional Information

The type and frequency of communication may vary significantly along the lifecycle of patient demographic data. Therefore, it is important to have a communication plan that has been defined, documented, approved by stakeholders, and scheduled. A communications plan can be as short as one page, and it typically includes a matrix for guiding communications.

The matrix may consist of the following designations:

  • Topic: (e.g., patient demographic data quality)
  • Subject: (e.g., policy, process, guidelines, standards, templates, requirements)
  • Audience (may include): Patients, registrars, front desk staff, billing, schedulers, providers, nursing staff, medical assistants, laboratory personnel, health information management staff, business office staff, information system staff, and other system users and
  • Frequency: (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.).

Spending the time to think through communications about patient demographic data will reduce unnecessary confusion. A plan also serves as a baseline against which progress can be measured.

Example Work Products

  • Communications plan

Additional Information

The communications planning matrix can provide the structure for status reporting. For example, the communications requirements of data entry personnel may differ depending on whether they are co-located or geographically dispersed (e.g., a “lunch and learn” session would not reach all stakeholders who are in various locations). Examples of determining if communication is reaching the intended audience include measuring feedback process (e.g., through email receipt), corresponding to communications sent (by type), and capturing website visitors or repository access, are.

Example Work Products

  • Communications feedback
  • Adoption rates associated with communications

Additional Information

Over time, personnel may express varying needs and requirements for patient demographic data. This can result in inefficiencies and defects occurring along the patient demographic data lifecycle.

Where possible, it is important to measure for desired changes in behavior resulting from communications, such as monitoring for adherence to name and address standards for patient demographic data when input into authoritative systems along the lifecycle. Communicating changes in policies and processes effectively can directly result in improvements in the quality of patient demographic data. For example, tracking the record creation error rate is one appropriate measure for an administrative dashboard. A reduction in the error creation rate following a communication of a policy change might indicate that it has resulted in more accurate patient demographic data.

Example Work Products

  • Stakeholder communications chart status report (type of communications delivered, organized by audience)
  • Archive of announcements, emails, meeting notes, etc. through a portal
  • Communications effectiveness metrics

Practice Evaluation Questions

Tier 1: Foundational

1.1 Does the organization have a communications plan for informing internal and external stakeholders about policies, processes, procedures, and decisions impacting patient demographic data?

Tier 2: Building

2.1 How does the organization ensure that communications reach and appropriately inform the intended audience?

Tier 3: Advanced

3.1 Does the organization provide effective communications across the entire lifecycle of patient demographic data?