Recently, two midwest health systems that I’ve worked with in the past announced their intent to merge and become one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in the country. This news, coupled with other recently announced health system mergers, got me thinking about one of the five key events I wrote about previously that trigger a hastened need for a clear data management strategy: Merger/Acquisitions. In my experience, one of the primary things that fuels a merger or acquisition, especially in healthcare, is to achieve operating efficiencies and lower the cost of doing business. With this in mind, the mantra of the merger often becomes “Speed to Value”. In other words, how fast can we consolidate our processes, systems, and ultimately data to realize efficiencies? However, before a company rushes off to make decisions, experience has shown that there are four key things to evaluate and plan before racing towards the finish line.
Taking the time to inventory all of the applications used across the collective entities is critical. This inventory should include information on the business purpose of the application, the age of the hardware platform it resides on, version, business owner, and a ranking of its ability to scale into a larger organization. This work will then lay the foundation for creating a technology roadmap to inform what systems will live forward, which will retire, and the timing under which the transition can occur. A large body of work hiding under the covers of this is determining how to handle the data. It’s often said that if the data doesn’t move, the business doesn’t move, so having a well defined roadmap is a critical success factor.
Regulatory and Retention Requirements
Most industries are laden with regulations and many govern or at least inform how data is stored, transmitted, and leveraged for reporting purposes. It is crucial to have a deep understanding of industry requirements and how technology can support compliance. This becomes crucial during a merger as situations inevitably arise where data needs to be blended, migrated, or moved. Creating an inventory of all key data concepts, the associated retention periods, security requirements, and reporting uses will help inform the overall data migration plan.
Reporting and Analysis
In the rush to consolidate systems and realize value from a merger, the focus naturally shifts to getting the data into the systems that will live forward through data migrations or workflows for ingestion of new data. However, what is often overlooked is how the data will come out on the other side in the form of reports, dashboards, and extracts to enable business processes or data-trading partner commitments. Spending the time to inventory reporting and trading partner data needs up front will help avoid the pitfall of having data captured or migrated into a system in a way that does not provide value or is unusable for reporting purposes.
It will pay dividends to focus on audit processes in advance of the technology and data consolidation associated with a merger or acquisition. Thinking about how data will be validated and traced through its lifecycle will inform testing and help to ensure business partners are comfortable with how the data moves from legacy systems to consolidated platforms. Working closely with internal audit and corporate compliance teams up front will help to avoid the last minute scramble to provide documentation to support both internal and external audits.