I was really blown away by this quote from an interview with Rebecca Quammen.
The buzz around data analytics promotes the need for data scientists and data analysts as among the most sought-after roles, and that is problematic in and of itself. It’s creating a huge demand, but it’s also a demand that many healthcare organizations don’t know how to deal with right now. I see the buzz around data analytics increasing the pressure to “do something” with data, but many organizations across the nation, both large and small and in every setting of care, simply don’t have the foundational knowledge to manage the data to their benefit, and to know the database structure and how to get it the data out and what the data tells them when they get it. We are not an industry historically good at mining good, rich data out of products and doing something meaningful with it. We do traditional reporting and we may do a little bit of historical reporting, but we’re not good at looking at data to predict and promote and to work toward the future, or to see trends and do analysis across the organization.
Rebecca nailed this one on the head. I’ve seen a bunch of organizations go running towards healthcare informatics with no idea of what they wanted to accomplish or any sort of methodology for how they’re going to analyze the data to find useful insights. It kind of reminds me of the herd mentality that happens at conferences. If any sort of crowd starts to build at a conference, then the crowd quickly grows exponentially as people think that something interesting must be going on. The same seems to happen as healthcare organizations have run towards data analytics.
While I think there’s so much potential in health data analytics, I think that most organizations are afraid to fail. The culture in healthcare is “do no harm.” There are some very good reasons for this and some real fears when it comes to medical liability. There’s a lot more at stake when using data in healthcare than say Netflix trying to predict which shows you might be interested in watching. If Netflix gets it wrong, you just keep scrolling after some minor frustration which you quickly forget. In healthcare, if we get it wrong, people can die or be harmed in some major way.
I understand why this healthcare culture exists, but I also think that inactivity is killing as many or more people than would be damaged by our data mistakes. It’s a challenging balance. However, it’s a balance that we must figure out. We need to enable more innovation and thoughtful experimentation into how we can better use health data. Yes, I’m talking beyond the traditional reporting and historical reporting which doesn’t move the needle on care. I’m talking using data to really impact care. That’s a brave place to be, but I applaud all of those brave people who are exploring this new world.