Answering the rising demand for proficient clinical data experts

By Q-Centrix | March 25, 2022

A look at an innovative training program to solve an industry-wide challenge.

Meeting the Demand for Clinical data experts

When Shatonda Winters and Megan Mejia met while working at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital more than a decade ago, they had no idea they would one day play a direct role in solving for a growing demand for high-quality, clinical data. They now count themselves among the first group of instructors to provide extensive clinical data management training as part of a new and innovative program—the Q-Centrix Institute (QCI)—to address this industry-wide challenge.

The health care industry’s challenges with data integrity

The more hospitals seek to leverage their clinical data for competitive advantages like service line growth and physician recruitment, and to mitigate operational and financial pressures, the more important the integrity of their data becomes. At the same time, variances across the industry in who performs clinical data abstraction, and the methods they use, are raising concerns about the overall ability to deliver this data at the essential elevated standards.

In the face of this industry-wide challenge, Q-Centrix saw a unique opportunity to prepare individuals with diverse clinical backgrounds to expertly curate clinical data to its high quality and productivity standards, and consequently launched QCI in September 2021.

“Enthusiasm for QCI across the company has been incredible,” explains Alissa Luck, Q-Centrix Chief People Officer, and a champion for QCI’s establishment. “At Q-Centrix, we pride ourselves on the integrity and fidelity of the data that we steward. With QCI, we now have a formal program for instilling the skills and experiences in our new clinical data experts to do this work at the degree of quality that meets or exceeds the highest standards in the industry.”

The people behind QCI

Shatonda and Megan were part of an initial group of trainers instrumental in launching QCI by establishing the program’s instructional framework and training its first groups of participants. If there is one word to describe their career journeys, which have intersected more than once, it is diverse. Shatonda has served as an emergency medical technician, certified nursing assistant, surgical scrub tech, and medical records coder. Megan was a nurse in an orthopedic unit before earning a bachelor’s degree in health information technology and taking on a quality department role abstracting clinical data for regulatory reporting. Today, both are clinical data experts at Q-Centrix.

In addition to their career ambitions, the two acknowledge they also share similar ideas on what makes teams and organizations successful, including a strong belief in the power of training and professional development.

“I often joke how the passion I have for sharing knowledge with my team is evidenced in the growth of one of my training binders from one to three inches wide while I was a team leader at St. Joe’s,” Megan divulges.

Shatonda notes that she values cross-training for creating strong, versatile teams, and sees training and development as beckoning opportunities for employees to pursue roles they otherwise would not have been qualified to take on.

“Put simply, somebody took a chance on me. That is how the journey to where I am today began. In return, I was willing to go outside my comfort zone to gain new experiences to advance my career,” Shatonda recounts. “When I interviewed at Q-Centrix, I had little exposure to abstracting data for measuring or improving clinical care. Despite this, I think the team recognized my potential, gave me a warm welcome, and then began intensely training me in clinical data abstraction.”

Shatonda and Megan learned of Q-Centrix through its data management partnership with St. Joe’s during their time working at the hospital together. Shatonda explains that when she learned how Q-Centrix views clinical data as a strategic asset that could be unlocked for valuable insights, she felt it aligned with her own career interests, and that perhaps there was a place for her at the company.

In March 2013, Shatonda joined Q-Centrix in a role known today as clinical data specialist. Six months later, after seeking out an opportunity of her own, Megan followed.

“When I arrived at Q-Centrix, I could see Shatonda’s skills and experience had grown substantially in just a short time,” recalls Megan. “Once I came aboard, she was the one who trained me and I almost immediately began gaining experience in service lines I had not yet been exposed to.”

Today, Shatonda is responsible for ensuring Q-Centrix partner satisfaction through ongoing communication and management of projects in her role as clinical services lead. As clinical data lead, Megan focuses on partner satisfaction through data quality assurance. The two called upon their own journeys to help ensure the positive work and learning environment and strong commitment to high-quality data that they experienced would be an inherent part of QCI.

The future of clinical data training

Currently, more than 150 new team members are enrolled in QCI with new participants joining each month. The courses are now led by a group of eight dedicated Q-Centrix clinical data experts who serve as full-time program trainers and each are focused on a specific service line, such as cardiology or oncology.

The QCI learning pathway uses a combination of training mediums, including web-based training, virtual live training sessions, cohort learning, observed teammate “ride-alongs,” and learning validations at each critical phase over a six-month training period. Further, access to the Q-Centrix proprietary workflow and efficiency software provides QCI participants with a robust learning platform.

“Going back to Q-Centrix’s early days, supporting and developing team members to expertly curate clinical data has long occurred at the interpersonal and team levels,” notes Jelena Virijevic, Q-Centrix Senior Vice President, Client Services, and a QCI architect. “We now emulate this tradition on a larger scale for a greater impact on our team, our hospital partners, and the industry overall through QCI.”

Q-Centrix’s plans for further QCI expansion include enrolling all of the company’s established and new clinical data experts into the program—affirming a commitment to developing the most skilled and experienced workforce for addressing the unabating demand for high-quality clinical data.

Shatonda and Megan along with Q-Centrix’s current clinical staff, remain instrumental to the success of QCI by providing guidance and support to new team members and the dedicated trainers.

“I’m excited to be part of QCI, and about how far it has come and where we’re taking it,” relates Shatonda. “It is demanding, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m so proud of the trainees for their courage and commitment to something new, and feel fulfilled that we’re preparing them for this critical work.”

“It is vital that we continually identify and cultivate individuals who have what it takes to do this unique work to grow as an organization,” adds Megan. “I jumped at the opportunity to be involved in QCI because I believed I could help develop the necessary skillsets among the program’s participants. Ultimately, it’s about the people, and you don’t want to pass up good people.”