Data Administration is the management of data facilitation, storage and retrieval for all pertinent information obtained by an organization’s multiple systems. 

A Data Administration Department builds the policy and procedure in which information is obtained, the order in which it is organized, managed, secured, defined and interacted with.  Data Administration also ensures data quality and security.  Saint Rita’s needs a Data Administration department to first build an organizational plan to standardize multi department processes, protocols and audit procedures. Data is an important corporate asset and must be valued as the commodity it has become.

Technology continues to evolve, as does the collection, processing, security, and retrieval methods of data. “Managing data, information, and knowledge will drive business, and the ability of an organization to manage its information will determine its success..” according to Robert Seiner, publisher of The Data Administrator Newsletter and president of KIK consulting. Key components to managing data is knowing what data you have, how it is being used currently and how it can be used in the future to create advantages over competition.

Data Administration was born from the tools and methods which emerged from the relational database revolution in the 1970s.  The “green bar” era of technology was synonymous with stacks of computer paper loaded with mostly useless pieces of data now referred to as metadata. Metadata was then sifted through to access the pertinent data collected which could then be processed by the human mind and turned into useful information.

Often, pieces of key data would be reputedly referenced and re-entered into spreadsheets for more meaningful results. Spread sheets begot more spreadsheets and before long an organization would be so deep in the noise of data, information it was originally attempting to obtain was lost or too time consuming to find.

The capabilities of data base systems have increased exponentially in the last decade.  Through advances in programming and the proprietary development of new applications, tools have now become available which allow for the gathering of more data and more accurate data.  The time has come to form a department and task this new department with managing our valuable corporate asset which to date, has been left unguarded.  A Data Administration Department will work side by side with IS moving us forward as an organization and advancing our hospital.

Currently, few hospitals are utilizing a data administration department to facilitate the sharing of information, quality improvement and security, ease of access and redundancy reduction of their facility data. Areas that would be directly impacted and improved by the development of a DA division include research, population health reporting, administration, quality performance and patient safety measurement and reporting. The table below illustrates the career rolls of existing and emerging HIM departments. The functions of the career rolls in the “emerging” table will support the mission and goals for the creation of a data administration department. 





Physical records

Data item definition
Data modeling
Data administration
Data auditing

Aggregation and display of data

Electronic searches
Shared knowledge sources
Statistical and modeling techniques

Forms and records design

Logical data views
Data flow and reengineering
Application development Application support

Confidentiality and release of information

Security, audit, and control programs
Risk assessment and analysis
Prevention and control measures

Current Operations:

Although little information on hospital data administration departments is currently available, several academic institutions and state health organizations have begun implementing data administration departments. Additionally, a case study was found in the European Journal of Human Genetics researching the results of data quality compiled by clinical personnel such as a Genetic Counselor vs. non clinical personnel such as a data administrator which will be referenced further as we look at enhanced operations and benefits of a Data Administration Department.

The University of Pennsylvania uses the office of Data Administration to help manage data as a University resource so members of the Penn community have the information they need, when they need it, and in the form in which they need it to do their jobs. The objectives of their Data Administration Department are to improve the quality, security, ease of access, and reduce the redundancy of the data. Specific functions of the Office of Data Administration focus on data architecture as a framework for decision making, the creation of a common language of standards, the arbitration and negotiation of agreements, and a commitment to education and advocacy.

The University of Pennsylvania breaks down their data administration department into a Data Warehouse and something they call the PENN Community.  The Data Warehouse includes data collections such as student billing and receivables, general ledger, position inventory, salary management, special projects, and student data. From this area one can gain access to information about a collection and general information about Penn’s Data Warehouse from each data collection’s home page. Data collection information includes the collection’s refresh schedule, data diagrams, table and data element documentation, data training, and data security. Cross collections are available for some data collections. A simple search feature is available on the General Ledger collection’s home page.

The PENN Community area provides biographic, demographic and affiliation information about people who are part of the University community as well as a forms library for documents necessary to set up, access or amend information in the Data Warehouse. Users can also access a quick reference data dictionary and be provided with answers o frequently asked questions and general information. This includes information that is pertinent to all the data collection such as information about data base queries, historical information about Penn’s Data Warehouse, the access request forms you must submit for authorization to use the Warehouse, query tools used at Penn to retrieve data, training, support services, general information about Warehouse security, and updates to the warehouse.  

 Enhanced Operations and Benefits:

Students, faculty and associates of the University of Pennsylvania have on central location available to them 24 hours a day to answer frequently asked questions. This accessibility improves the customer service level the university was previously unable to achieve.  They have reduced phone calls into administration by directing questions first to their Data Warehouse freeing up the administrative office to focus more time on the accuracy of the data and focus on process improvement.

  • Improved customer service to University Affiliates.
  • Reduced risk of identity theft and related privacy intrusions by actively promoting use of PENN ID as an alternative to SSN.
  • Reduced risk to University assets by enabling improved authentication processes (Kerberos) for network access.
  • PENNcard Center operations will benefit from enabling decentralized data management.
  • Time spent identifying and resolving data integrity issues can be redirected to other activities.
  • Ability to accommodate new services and changes to existing services.

According to the article published on line June 15, 2005 in the European Journal of Human Genetics, it should also be considered that Data Administration may be able to perform some of the current job function of clinical personnel.  The study focuses on pedigree construction and disease confirmation through an administrative function preformed by a data administrator rather than a clinician. The study does not define a data administration department or outline its organization but it is concluded that one was put in place previous to performing the study. Results indicate that roll substitution for a non clinical data administrator (which would be a position encompassed in the Data Administration Department) is feasible. We acknowledge that more research is needed.

This study is significant to hospitals because the creation of a Data Administration Department could reduce the need for multiple clinical staff that are difficult to recruit and of significant salary expense by reassigning some of the work load to non- clinical staff. Hospitals could also choose to keep their existing pathologists, and free up their time for further research. Additional research could result in additional grant awards and future breakthroughs in genetic and disease pathology.

Source: Marci Wilhelm, Chief Compliance Officer at MedPartners HIM