From data to information to knowledge to wisdom

Nick Caffentzis

Where healthcare execs would like to see analytics go from here

I recently sat in on a panel discussion on analytics with CEOs and CIOs. One CEO shared the vision for his hospital, “I’d like to see us move from having lots of data to having actionable information, which will increase our knowledge and eventually lead to wisdom across our organization.”

I thought, what a succinct and clear statement! And then he laughed and said, “I’m not sure we’ll get to the wisdom part in my lifetime, but hopefully to the knowledge level.”

A week later, in a meeting with 20 CMIOs, I saw a flow chart with very similar language. It was titled, “The challenge of moving from data to information to knowledge to wisdom.” It showed the progression from electronic data in systems, to advanced reporting of that data, to insightful analytics derived from multiple sources, to improved outcomes.

There was healthy discussion of what wisdom means. Some of the ideas included:

  • real-time predictive scores
  • improved clinical decision capabilities
  • applying artificial intelligence
  • incorporating personal genomics

The executives also debated whether we’re three, five or even 10 years from achieving these respective definitions of wisdom. They acknowledged significant challenges, such as incomplete or incorrect records and siloed and unformatted data.

But consensus emerged around several assessments:

  1. Reports are not analytics. At the very least, we need to show summaries and patterns to be insightful.
  2. We can’t wait to get started. The data will only get better by using what we can and improving as we go along. While improving, interoperability across software systems cannot be the only answer.
  3. We must identify specific issues that excite key stakeholders. Where can we help providers to be more efficient or deliver better care? This will help with data accuracy. Whatever brings a fast ROI will make the CFO smile and agree to fund more projects.
  4. Building an EDW might not be critical. Cloud technology and machine learning tools can help us identify and use the data we need when we need it, versus figuring out how to get all the data in one place first.
  5. Patients will play an increasing role in providing data. Can we use this behavior to enable patients to modify or improve their lifestyle decisions and support care plans?

I left these two meetings encouraged by the progress that health systems and practices are making as they try a variety of approaches to improve outcomes through analytics. I see ways that software vendors can support these approaches and reinforce the learnings, raise our collective knowledge and speed us on the way to wisdom.

Let me know what you think.


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