January 21, 2020

Five Proven Ways for Health Systems to Foster a Data-Centric Culture

Bill Kotraba

Topic:   Industry Focus

Last updated: July 28th, 2020

You could just send a memo declaring that your healthcare system will adopt a data-driven culture beginning the first of next month and that all subsequent decisions will align with analytical insights.

Then again, a memo likely isn’t enough to change the behavior of thousands of experienced professionals, many of them likely to be wary of the promise of a plan for a single source of truth. If you suspect that a little more encouragement and a lot more inspiration (or vice versa) might help, here are five proven ways – gleaned from Information Builders’ decades of experience with healthcare clients – to cultivate a data-centric culture in your organization.

Lead by (Senior Management’s) Example

  • Create a data steering committee that is chaired by a clinical or business leader – one who’s not from IT – to reinforce the message that better data is meant to help all users, not just technologists. Meet regularly to set priorities, share successes, and coordinate communications throughout the organization
  • Ensure that all communications from executives reflect the value of data. Refer to data collected by the organization as a valuable asset to be protected, maintained, and expanded

Begin With Quick Projects That Can Model Success

  • Start small and specific – consider improving a key area of the patient experience with clear business objectives. Share the method and results widely. Document how data interoperability between departments contributed to this measurement and improvement. Use the momentum to continue tackling key outcomes and processes
  • Enlist data champions – people and teams who will be receptive to using data, engage with data projects, and enthusiastic about evangelizing their successes

Distribute Data That Prompts Action

  • Embed actionable data with clear utility in systems that team members routinely use – avoiding extraneous information that isn’t likely to be used to make practical decisions
  • Presentations and memos should clearly cite the data used for making key decisions, creating transparency around how it was collected and analyzed

Ensure Data Is Reliable and Consistent

  • Nothing undercuts a budding data culture so much as lack of trust in the data itself. Prioritize creating a team to ensure that information in your enterprise data warehouse is accurate and that definitions are consistent – within systems and across the organization
  • It takes time and resources, but the effort will be repaid many times over in adoption of quantitative methodologies and errors avoidance

Spark Creative Thinking About What Is Possible

  • One of the biggest impediments to fully adopting a data-centric culture is that many professionals have limited experience with the range of measures and insights possible with today’s technology
  • Leaders should conduct focus groups and design-thinking workshops that encourage staff to imagine what information they would find most useful while ignoring perceived constraints. Spur creativity by showing examples of insights that come from combining data elements from different systems.

All of these insights have one central theme: maximizing the engagement with data for every stakeholder in the organization. They help people experience how the right analysis of the most accurate data can further their business and care priorities. And they help build a flywheel of success, repetition, and expansion that can embed a data-driven culture throughout an enterprise. Memos alone can never do that.