Claims for Big Data’s and analytics’ benefits are considerable for commercial enterprises. For health and healthcare, it seems a bit more complicated, and sometimes bewildering. Where and how to start is a challenge.
In an article in Health Analytics, Dr Danyal Ibrahim, emergency physician and Chief Data and Analytics Officer at Saint Francis Care in Connecticut, invokes the wisdom of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who famously said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
He sees the first step towards health analytics as a daunting leap of faith. Succeeding depends on:
- Clinical leadership and champions
- The right partnerships
- A strong, diverse Big Data analytics team
- Create an analytics infrastructure that delivers actionable, meaningful data to points of care
- Identify and break down data silos and develop a Big Data roadmap.
The last point holds the key to creating a streamlined data analytics infrastructure that reveals comprehensive and meaningful patients’ stories. These lead on to help make better and timely decisions. While healthcare data’s supposed to be connected around individual patients, it isn’t. It ends up in different siloes, creating a big barrier to using data to improve care.
From the streamlined data, the next steps are:
- Bring all the data stewards together
- Redesign the analytics team to focus on value for better care, more cost effective care and better patients’ experiences for patients
Effective analytics teams comprise a wide range of skills. They include, clinical, financial analytics, SQL development, data warehousing and data science, including statistical modelling and natural language processing. For Africa’s health systems, all these skills and knowledge may not be readily available. Analytics teams will need structured, integrated and technical development, so a sustainable training budget.
Lao Tzu’s proposed first step of analytics costs has a second step of producing valuable outputs that healthcare teams can use for measurable, proven patient benefits. Analytics will then justify itself.