Morgan Templar

VP Data Management, Highmark Health


Morgan Templar has been passionate about especially healthcare data for decades. She has worked coast-to-coast for US-based health insurance payers, hospital systems and integrated delivery systems. Her belief that “data is the blood that runs in the veins of healthcare” describes the integral nature of healthy data for positive health outcomes.
She has written two bestselling books on data governance and speaks frequently at conferences and events. Her driving passion is ensuring the right data us used at the right place, for the right care.
Templar has a master’s in healthcare administration from Ohio University and a degree in PR from the University of Utah. She lives in the north Pittsburgh area with her husband and has four grown children.

Getting to know...

Morgan, how have you been working towards overcoming the challenges presented by interoperability in the health care sector?

The response to CMS/ONC Interoperability, which is only applicable for Federal products, is only the tip of the iceberg. We have evaluated our data patterns and access methods and have taken an API First position for intraplatform and external data needs.

As an integrated Payer/Provider healthcare organization we have the accountability to deliver on both sides of the CMS/ONC Interoperability requirements. In addition to simply writing the necessary APIs to make data available we have been converting our claims, encounters, and clinical data into Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) repositories mapped to the appropriate endpoints. We have also had to navigate the challenges of explicit consent and/or revocation of consent and 3rd party authorizations keeping privacy and cybersecurity concerns at the forefront.

We have multiple health plan payer clients that use our data platform adding the additional complexity of their unique state requirements for Medicaid and our negotiated data footprint. The requirement of data availability since 1/1/2016 requires a blended response between the health plan clients and Highmark depending on the amount of historical data we have on our platform versus what they maintain in their databases.

Our technical solutions are tempered by the need to simplify the user experience staying true to the intent of the rules. Members and patients, for the first time, will have the full access to their data and the ability to delegate that access to an app on their phone or even a trusted family member who may also use a 3rd party app. This puts much of the responsibility on the member/patient to be informed and make choices that align with their desire for privacy or convenience. We have an obligation to provide consumer information and some inherent responsibility to protect against “bad actors” having access to our systems and our member/patient’s data.

Interoperability is here to stay and will only get more complex every year as our member and patient populations get more tech savvy and demand more control and access.

Morgan, you’re a big advocate for having as many perspectives/backgrounds present within a data & analytics team to help increase the quality of output, what would be your recommendation to other leaders who are looking to attract diverse talent?

Data are only useful if the curated information meets the users’ needs. Data curation and management should be done in such a way that it reflects the population that it will serve. We live in diverse communities and the minds and ideas that guide our data work should reflect that diversity.

We tend to hire people that we know, people that look, sound, act and reflect us. The simple answer for me is to make sure that I personally know people, interact with people, and reflect people from many different backgrounds, socio-economic situations, cultures, and interests.

An easy way to dip a toe into the diversity waters is to join or form support groups for diverse populations of employees. Whether it be Pride/LGBTQA, Asia Pacific Islanders, Veterans, Black Employee Network, Hispanic Americans, or any other population or group, bringing people together to have a place to feel supported and acknowledged is a powerful statement of inclusion of diverse employees.

Mentoring programs also offer a way to engage one on one with people who are at different stages of their careers, different educational or socio-economic backgrounds. Most community colleges and universities and many community support programs need people willing to mentor and help grow others’ careers.

I once had the opportunity to open a branch department and staff it with 35 new people. Since the skillset needed was rare, we planned to train all employees. I found job boards at community centres, colleges, sports clubs as well as the state workforce service. The resulting mix of people was representative of the community we served.

The key to having a diverse workforce, especially in the technical data field, is to foster an open and supportive culture within your team and organization. Everyone on my teams is equally valuable with unique skills, ideas, and perspectives. The more diverse your team becomes the more you can look around and recognize that the people you are around most, your co-workers and employees, reflect your community. It’s a win for everyone.