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The Health Information and Quality Authority (“HIQA”) issues guidance on a data quality framework for health and social care

On 17 October 2018, HIQA published its guidance on a ‘Data Quality Framework for Health and Social Care’ (the “Guidance”).


The Guidance applies to all health and social care organisations. The Guidance also applies to national health and social care data collections (such as the National Cancer Registry of Ireland and the Hospital In-Patient Enquiry Scheme (HIPE); however, the Guidance can be adapted by other health and social care organisations interested in undertaking a systematic approach to evaluating the quality of the data they produce.


The Guidance will assist health and social care organisations to establish a data quality framework in order to systematically assess, monitor, evaluate and improve the quality of their data and information.

Health and social care services accumulate huge volumes of data every day. This data is collected at every point of a patient’s journey through the healthcare system. Doctors and nurses then use this data to make decisions regarding patient care. Post treatment, this information can be used for other purposes such as; monitoring diseases, planning services, informing health policy and undertaking research. It is in this context that the Guidance was prepared. An efficient data quality framework is essential to deliver services and improve health and social care.

Key Components

The Guidance covers five key components of a data quality framework. The examples listed below are taken from an explanatory video (produced by HIQA) to accompany the Guidance:

  • Timelines and Punctuality: Where laboratory results are timely, the doctor can make a swift decision in relation to the best treatment for the patient.
  • Accuracy and Reliability: When results are quality checked in a laboratory, the doctor can be confident in making a diagnosis based on an accurate test result.
  • Accessibility and Clarity: Where laboratory results can be easily obtained and are clear and understandable, the doctor can efficiently review and diagnose a patient.
  • Relevance: When the doctor receives the right information from the laboratory, the doctor can effectively diagnose the patient’s condition and can order the best treatment.
  • Coherence and Comparability: Data should be consistent over time and consistent across providers so that it can be easily combined with other sources. This component is important for those involved in research or health policy.

Commenting on the Guidance, Ms Rachel Flynn, HIQA’s Director of Health Information and Standards, said the following:

“Efforts to improve systems or processes within health and social care organisations must be driven by reliable data. Decisions are only as good as the information on which they are based. Where reliable data is available, organisations can accurately identify deficiencies, prioritise quality improvement initiatives and objectively assess whether change and improvement have occurred.”

“To ensure that data is ‘fit for purpose’, health and social care organisations should adopt a systematic approach to assessing, improving and maintaining the quality of their data. The Guidance provides that consistent approach to managing the quality of data and information.”

The full text of the Guidance can be accessed here.

Along with the Guidance, HIQA has also published a tool titled ‘Interactive Data Quality Assessment Tool for health and social care’ (the “Tool”), which provides a detailed set of criteria that organisations can use to comprehensively assess its data sources. The Tool should be read in conjunction with the Guidance and can be accessed here.

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