Healthcare and your Database

At the ASAE Annual Meeting in August, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Jeff Bauer speak on the state of the healthcare system in the US. Bauer brought a decidedly non-partisan view to the issue. You can download his two presentations at his website (

In one session, Bauer listed the characteristics of successful healthcare provider organizations. The characteristics are:

  • Standardization
  • Flexibility
  • Alignment
  • Integration
  • Leadership
  • Accountability
  • Creativity

What I find fascinating about this list is these are exactly the same set of characteristics that I would ascribe to a successful association management system. Let’s take each in turn:

Standardization – This one should be a no-brainer for most data managers. If you do not have standard practices for how data is entered, where it is managed, who manages, etc., then the whole system will quickly fall apart. Just imagine if you had a field in your database that was used for both birthdates AND gender.

Flexibility – Of course, with every system, you need to be able to be flexible enough to handle any exceptions that may come along. And for some associations, exceptions are the rule. Flexibility is key.

Alignment – As Bauer states, alignment means all stakeholders are pursuing the same operational objectives and strategic goals. The same is true for your AMS. If the operational objectives and strategic goals are not clear, or if different parts of the association are working at cross-purposes, the system is doomed to failure.

Integration – Quite simply, if you have multiple data sources (e.g., a central AMS, a website, a third-party registration system), they need to be integrated as tightly as possible. Every point where integration does not take place is an opportunity for error, which lowers the value of the system.

Leadership – This is absolutely core to long-term success. If the leadership within the association (i.e., senior management and the board) does not understand the overall value of the AMS, chances for success are greatly reduced.

Accountability – This is one that many associations struggle with. Who is accountable for what goes on in the AMS? It’s technology, so it’s in the IT department, right? Or maybe it’s mostly membership information, so the membership department has responsibility. But is anyone accountable for the success (or failure) of the system? And if someone has responsibility, do they also have authority?

Creativity – Obviously, creative problem-solving is key to any success, whether it’s managing a database or managing your business.

While Bauer was describing the characteristics of successful healthcare provider organizations, if you have these characteristics for management of your association management system, you’re going to be in pretty good health.

This article originally appeared in the October 17, 2008, issue of Association Trends. Reprinted with permission.


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