The Healthcare Hub

Data Management Strategy: First Steps on the Road Map to Success

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Incorporating and maintaining accurate product data within one’s item master is a critical step in gaining visibility, driving purchasing accuracy and capturing revenue. Problems with item master data, whether it is related to incomplete, duplicate or missing information, is painfully felt throughout the value chain in lost savings, reduced charge capture and potential lost revenue. In clinical areas, confusing and duplicate item descriptions can leave clinicians frustrated with search efforts and manually documenting supplies which can lead to further revenue losses. Efforts to pinpoint and address the specific issues can no longer be pushed aside with hospitals already working within thin margins that are likely to get even thinner.

Get started with these five steps.

Step 1: Check and Correct

Analyze item master data for:

  • Relevancy- Compare the item master to purchase order (PO) history, if it hasn’t been purchased within the last 18 months, deactivate
  • Consistency- Identify product descriptions and price discrepancies that need correction
  • Completeness- Identify which items are missing information and determine which non-file items should be added to the item master
  • Categorization- Add missing UNSPSC codes and correct where needed

Step 2: Gain Internal Acceptance for Change

Because the item master touches so many areas of an organization, it’s crucial to gain buy-in from clinicians and non-clinicians that interact with this data source before making changes to the processes and data. Communicate that the end results from changes will support right item at the right time.

Step 3: Address Technology and Resource Limitations

Most healthcare organizations are limited with the necessary staff and technology resources to embark on a complete data management strategy on their own. Even with some resources, it is often more efficient and cost-effective to engage with a third party that has comprehensive knowledge and experience in this area. See where you need help and engage an outside resource in those areas.

Step 4: Clean and Normalize Data

Once you have completed the step one processes, the next level of accuracy and completion is enabled through a cleansing and enrichment process to correct inaccurate information and add missing information, such as manufacturer item numbers and units of measure (UOM).

Step 5: Drive Standardization and Formulary

A key element to drive complete charge capture is through standardizing product descriptions and attributes within an item master to facilitate search efforts. In this way, it streamlines processes and improves purchasing accuracy. Engage clinicians in the development of product descriptions where character limits present significant challenges and consider clinical needs for product attributes such as latex-free. When users can quickly find the items they would like to purchase, it reduces the chance they will make off-file, off-contract purchases. Gathering product data directly from the source — the manufacturers — enables you to populate the item master with accurate and up-to-date information.


These first steps in a data management strategy work to drive purchasing accuracy, reduce missed charges and gain visibility. Explore the complete process and find more tips based on real-world experience from industry leaders in Master Data Management Strategy Best Practices.