Health care organizations have had to weather some of the more tempestuous and challenging waters in history throughout the past several years, and this has led to immense successes in some areas, and severe threats in others. The obvious mark in the losing column would be a product of IT security, which has been in a shoddy state throughout the sector these past few years, to say the least.

However, everything in this conversation is connected. For example, if a business does not have a strong security program in place, it is likely lacking in general information governance prowess as well, which can hold back the firm from achieving performance improvements. Tight control and an intelligent handle on information will work to shore up defenses, boost data accuracy and enhance outcomes from analytics programs all in one fell swoop.

What's more, leaders need to remember that their information is indeed their best friend, and improvements to data management performance will help to strengthen operations in other areas as well. Even if a health care provider does not really have much interest in deploying an analytics strategy - which, to be sure, it ought to - the onus is still placed on its staff to protect information and make it accessible due to regulatory compliance statutes in the United States.

The value of investing more into data management comes from so many different angles and perspectives, and is perhaps the most worthy of endeavors for health care providers today. From avoiding becoming the victim of the next major data breach to reducing the risk of fines and penalties levied by regulators for noncompliance and beyond, information management should be a priority for all decision-makers in the sector for the foreseeable future.

New analysis, bad results
Healthcare IT News recently reported that one major health system decided to invest money into an analytics solution that would help it to identify where it is going wrong from a financial standpoint, as well as what security failures are costing it each year. According to the news provider, Minnesota's Department of Public Health found that it wasted roughly $2 billion on patient visits that could have been prevented.

It is worth noting here that this particular initiative likely had its foundation in certain components within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as "Obamacare." The bill essentially demanded that hospitals dramatically reduce their readmission rates or pay fines, while the legislation was also the first legal move to make providers pay for their own mistakes, rather than passing the buck along to patients.

So, it should be clear why so many health systems are beginning to use analytics for these purposes, as they are being forced to overhaul their practices in efforts to reduce preventable re-admissions. Healthcare IT News pointed out that preventable emergency room visits alone accounted for roughly $1.3 billion in costs that could have otherwise been avoided for the health system, and that leaders have taken this information to heart.

Going back to the original point, if data management were not strong for this particular department, it would have been impossible to uncover accurate results when using an analytics program. Stronger governance should certainly be targeted at accuracy improvements, but must also cover the health care provider's bases when it comes to protecting information and avoiding breach.

Imminent threat
The latest survey released by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society revealed that medical firms are struggling to maintain pace with the evolution of threats. Roughly 40 percent of respondents agreed with that sentiment, and many believe that this problem is likely the direct result of too few resources, protections and fortifications to help them through the challenges of navigating a complex security landscape.

At the same time, the survey's results are somewhat of an indication as to what the medical industry is really up against when it comes to better managing and protecting data - a lack of awareness. When managers and leaders in the C-suite do not believe that security is a worthy target of increased investment, for example, the medical organization will be highly unlikely to put more time and effort into these procedures.

Similarly, a business case must be made for data management and security investments that is attached to general performance improvements, and it should not be all that difficult to pitch this idea. Analytics, when used properly, have shown to dramatically improve decision-making performance, and secure cloud and email encryption deployments can go a long way toward protecting a provider from many of the more common threats out there today.

With the right approach to general information governance - and a comprehensive one at that - health care providers can begin to be fueled by their data, rather than put at risk by it.