Over the last two months, the world of data models, projections, and forecasts has been at the center of national attention. For many healthcare leaders, COVID-19 has uncovered how hard they have to work to get useful data analytics when it should be the other way around: data analytics should be working to get useful information for healthcare leaders.
Data analytics should enable proactive management with quick insights and be used to identify, implement, and track various solutions based on their value indicators.
Whether an organization is deeply rooted in data analytics or is still trying to gather, link, and validate data with each analysis, the current COVID-19 challenge has affirmed that analytics is a quintessential business function in healthcare. To better equip you and your organization, we are sharing five principles for shaping an intentional data analytics strategy.
1. Ask the right questions
In a world of financial and time constraints, vague questions such as: "What trends do we see in the data?" rarely produce fruit. How an organization approaches data analytics and seeks to solve or understand issues shape the outcomes. Focusing on clear and measurable questions and analyses can concentrate an organization's efforts to quickly determine where the value lies. This requires executives and leaders to clearly articulate their data requests to the analytics department and to those who will eventually use or be impacted by the insights.
2. Throw out "garbage in, garbage out"
Many organizations made this saying the gold standard, but maybe this business philosophy has kept valuable insights from surfacing. Ancore believes that in a perfect world, data is known, entirely validated, cross-referenced, and correlated without exceptions. However, data is shaped by the quality of the inputs. So, what can you do when there is no other data available, or it would take a long time to clean up the “garbage in?” First, identify what is driving the “garbage out;” second, consider what context qualitative input can provide and how it can enrich what is available. Decision-makers need to weigh probabilities, contemplate variables, and take non-traditional hard data into account. Just because something doesn’t feel like "data" or is thought to be “garbage” doesn’t mean it should be disregarded. Sometimes, qualitative inputs can help connect the dots between more traditional data points while you are working to clean the inputs.
3. Triangulate, not isolate
Data insights found within silos often crumble when applied to real-world conditions. In our data analytics consulting work, we have seen many organizations drill into one isolated data set, failing to contextualize the insights with other interconnected data. While a single data source can provide valuable insights, combining and cross-examining data can broaden the analysis and provide a deeper understanding of the information revealed by the data. Imagine a Venn Diagram and try to apply the same concept to data: the most valuable insights are revealed by combining multiple data sets. Now, imagine the power of five or ten data sets working together to provide insights for your business.
4. Humanize your data insights
At Ancore Health, we work with mission-driven organizations that aim to improve people’s lives. Yet, when it comes to applying data insights, the human side of the equation is often masked by KPIs, summaries, or trends. Data is brought to life with an intentional approach to understanding the motives driving the individuals behind the data. The five “Why’s” technique developed by Sakichi Toyoda should influence what you are asking of the data and how you interpret the insights being surfaced. Having a clear purpose to what you want to change is essential, but it is equally important to evaluate the human impact of these decisions.
5. Plan AND Adopt
Many organizations have the vision to build a robust analytics strategy, but this falls short in providing true value. Data analytics is not something to "leave to the experts." Organizations must build data analytics capabilities collaboratively across business functions and foster a culture that applies analytics in daily operations, real-world processes, and workflows. As with any cultural endeavor, a data analytics strategy needs to be driven from the top and implemented from the bottom, with a clear understanding that the real power of analytics comes from adoption.
Data and analytics fuel almost every business decision we make, whether we realize it or not. Remember, the purpose of analytics is to work for you, providing actionable insights. By planning today with a clear purpose, analytics initiatives can happen tomorrow, enabling organizations to evaluate their ever-changing economic variables quickly, regardless of the circumstances.
For additional information on how Ancore Health can help you with your data strategy or implement these concepts, contact us at: