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By Monica E. Oss

For anyone tracking the trajectory of the pandemic emergency, every discussion is about data. Without data, leaders can’t make good decisions—and direct resources—in this crisis. There are the “how many” questions: How many hospital beds will be needed at a peak in any market and how many ventilators will be needed at the peak? How many masks are needed in any particular market? What is the likely effect of the emergency on the number of suicides? On the incidence of domestic violence and child abuse?

Then there are the questions about the lack of data about consumer health status. Without this data, our leaders are “shooting in the dark” on policy—making broad tactical decisions because they lack the data to be more precise. To inform us about consumer health status relative to the coronavirus, there are two types of testing—antigen testing (does someone have the virus?) and antibody testing (has someone had the virus and developed an immune response?).

For the antigen testing, used to determine who should be in quarantine, as of yesterday, the U.S. had conducted 1,108,500 COVID-19 tests, roughly 0.34% of the population (for a daily update on the antigen testing numbers, check out The COVID Tracking Project – US Daily Cumulative Totals). How does this compare with the countries that are doing the best managing with the emergency – Singapore, Korea, Iceland, and Sweden? In South Korea and Singapore, the test numbers are almost double – 0.82% and 0.70% of the population, respectively. Iceland has had the most aggressive approach, testing 5.35% of its population. (For more, see Why Sweden’s Coronavirus Approach Is So Different From Others, The Updates On COVID-19 In Korea As Of 1 April, and Singapore’s Strategy In Fighting COVID-19).

On the other hand, antibody testing is essential to determining which individuals can return to work and life without passing on or picking up infection. The United Kingdom has ordered 3.5 million antibody tests (see How Antibody Tests Work And Could Help Fight The Coronavirus) and I’m watching for results from an initiative in San Miguel county, Colorado (which includes Telluride), with a plan for its 8,000 residents an antibody test twice, 14 days apart (see Why Coronavirus Antibody Testing In One Colorado Town Could Provide A Way Forward). While there are a number of U.S. companies developing these tests (see What Coronavirus Tests Does The World Need To Track The Pandemic?), for planning, it’s a little late.

The lasting lesson for me from the past three weeks is the importance of good information for crisis planning and crisis management. For executives of specialty health and human service organizations, I’ve written about the seven components of a best practice crisis management plan (see Strategy In Uncertain Times: Planning Resources For The New Normal). But a crisis management plan is only as good as the ability of executives to access key data – and get that data updated frequently. Most often, this is data that exists somewhere in the organization, but it is usually not in the same system and it is not integrated for reporting in a way that it can be used for decisionmaking. Optimal crisis management requires “navigation data” allowing executive teams to change course quickly.

But even with data, a recent survey raises the question of how prepared health care managers are to use data to make decisions. The survey, published in The Future Health Index Age Of Opportunity: Empowering The Next Generation To Transform Health Care, found that 44% of clinical professionals under the age of 40 said their education had not prepared them for business management roles and 35% were unprepared to use digital consumer data to manage care. This speaks to the need to give thought to how data is reported to management teams and the importance of presenting it in a way that it is easily understood and useful for decisionmaking.

In the short-term, crisis management requires frequent status updates in a format that is easy to understand and to use in decision making. In the longer term, executive teams need to address key issues – identification of the key metrics needed to manage organizational performance, development of  intuitive just-in-time and role-specific data reporting across the organization, and education of key managers on how to use data in their supervision of teams and management of programs. The organizations with executive teams that embrace a data-driven approach to market strategy and operations management are the organizations that will have the best chance of navigating the business challenges of the months ahead.

For more on data-driven executive decisionmaking, check these resources from the OPEN MINDS Circle Library:

  1. How To Retrain Managers For Data-Driven Performance Management?
  2. The Why & The How Of Clinical Decision Support
  3. Performance Management For The C-Suite: An Executive Briefing
  4. Managing Your Team To ‘Tech Savvy’
  5. Yes, There Are Organizations Using Augmented Intelligence
  6. How Many Strategies Actually Get Implemented?
  7. Best Practice Performance Management—The Key To Sustainability & Success
  8. Planning For Your Strategic Advantage
  9. Market ‘Chaos’ Takes Planning & More Planning
  10. Jumping The ‘Strategy-To-Execution Gap’?

For more on crisis management planning, join me on April 7 at 1:00 pm EDT for the webinar, The OPEN MINDS Blueprint & Creating A Crisis Management Plan exclusively for OPEN MINDS members, who can register here.


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