I think time is running out for the information illiterate organizations in the health and human service field. But the majority of executive teams in the field are not close to having good information literacy competency – a real challenge that has been long in the making.
Roll back two decades. I founded OPEN MINDS with a focus on a very simple premise – executives in the field had limited data for decision making. (Yes, “providing better data for decision making” was the single objective of the original OPEN MINDS business plan.) At the time, getting data was the problem. Computers were expensive, there was no Internet and no “cloud,” and manipulating data sets could only be accomplished through complicated and costly computer programs.
What I didn’t anticipate was that just having ready access to the data wouldn’t solve the problem. Roll forward 20 years. We now have lots of relatively inexpensive data from lots of sources – including electronic health record (EHR) data, customer relationship management (CRM) data, financial data, human resources (HR) data, consumer health risk appraisals, and remote monitoring data. In addition, there are many relatively inexpensive tools for analyzing that data. So, it seems that the problem should be solved – right? Yet, I sat in meetings over the past month with three different organizations providing analytics services to the field who all said essentially the same thing – “we provide information to our customers, but they don’t use it.”
The problem? To quote Riaan Conradie, a computational biologist and founder of LifeQ in a recent article in The Guardian, “Now we’re overwhelmed by the number of devices, with metrics everywhere, spitting out data you don’t know what to do with” (see The Future Of Wearable Technology Is Not Wearables – It’s Analysing The Data). Using the example of wearable remote monitoring technology, what health and human service executives tell me (and my own primary care physician, too), is that they don’t want consumer’s personal health data, because there is too much of it. They don’t have the “human bandwidth” to review this avalanche of data – and no algorithms are being offered to these end users to analyze the data and identify when and what interventions are needed.
This is the case with almost all types of available data – data from EHRs, prescription databases, consumer risk appraisals, etc. The all-to-common reaction of some management teams to this data is benign neglect. This observation is supported by recent Gartner survey data (see Gartner Debunks Five Of The Biggest Data Myths), which found that while 75% of organizations report they are investing or planning to invest in analytics technologies, only 13% of organizations have actually adopted data as part of their decision-making process.
Twenty years ago, lack of management engagement in data wasn’t a big problem. The language of “value” hadn’t entered the health and human space. Now we have customers at every level making the “performance versus cost” comparison for everything in the health and human service space (see ‘By The Numbers’ Competitive Advantage). We had barely heard of the Internet – now we have to learn how to use the Internet of Things (see Planning Your IoT Strategy, and How The ‘Internet Of Things’ Will Bring New Competitive Advantage To Provider Organizations). And, we didn’t have organizations entering the health and human service field with a core competency in analytics and an ability to act based on “the numbers” (see Preparing For The Amazon Effect).
So how to address this situation? I think we need concentrated action in two areas. In the first, technology vendors serving health care organizations need to move their focus from the technology to user-friendly decision support. This involves hiring their own team members with the “tradecraft” to assist customers in understanding what the data means and how to use it. The two best presentations I’ve seen on the challenges for technology vendors to make data “intelligible” are by Thomas Goetz, the editor of Wired magazine, in his 2010 TedTalk – It’s Time To Redesign Medical Data – and Neil Ryan, “Video Evangelist” of LifeSize Communication, in his presentation at the 2014 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute, Innovative & Disruptive Technologies – How The Power Of Technology Is Transforming Service Delivery Around The World.
It appears that some vendors are moving in that direction. In the remote monitoring space, Jawbone is introducing a new Up3 band that will come with a service to compile data and use it to create useful coaching tips to improve sleep and overall health. Google Fit, Microsoft Health, and Apple Health services also promise to compile personal health data for individual consumers, but the decision support space for clinical professionals and provider organizations is more limited (see No Decision Support Tools? You’re Not Alone and Taking Decision Support From Concept To Practice).
The second action item is for executives of provider organizations to invest in analytics and informatics competencies. The time is now for a less passive approach to information management. Investment in information management is more than a regulatory requirement – it’s the key to future competitive advantage. To keep up with a changing field, executive teams need to evaluate whether their current information infrastructure can deliver what they need or if upgrades are needed (see Planning for the “Substitution Effects” of Technology and Beware Your Donkeys On The Freeway). Taking a quick look ahead – at the data requirements for population health management and risk contracts, the likely acquisition of smaller tech players in the tech field by larger vendors, and the new requirements for performance reporting and performance management – change is the one constant that management teams can count on in meeting their business intelligence needs.
A couple years ago, I wrote about the need to increase organizational information literacy and metrics-based management in Your Unread Book. It’s probably time now for required reading. And for more, follow our live coverage at the 2015 OPEN MINDS Performance Management Institute, which starts Thursday – if you couldn’t join us in Florida, follow us on Twitter @openmindscircle with the official institute hashtag #OMPerformance; check out pictures live from the event on our Facebook page; and stay tuned for OPEN MINDS Circle briefings live from the institute all week! We’re hosting a sold-out crowd this year, gathered to discuss the best practices for harnessing the power of data to improve performance.