Empowering Healthcare Transformation: How Data Literacy Unlocks the Untapped Potential of Data

05 July 2023 by Mat Oram

Data is a bit like oil; it has huge potential, but it needs to be refined before it becomes fully useful. For those who see the true value and have the skills to extract and use data in the right way, it can become the fuel of the business. But when you have a lot of it, and you don’t know what to do with it, data can become incredibly messy. This is much like the procurement spend data in the NHS. To make the most of it, you need to add context and put that spend data into the hands of the people who know what to do with it.


The problem with data

Data is the lifeblood of an organisation, yet many people don’t have the skills or tools they need to make use of it. They simply don’t know the prompts and questions that need to be asked to start analysing the data. The lack of data literacy can be a huge internal roadblock.

Often, people want a ‘data dump’. Their intention is to gather some data to put into a pivot table for analysis, with the goal of creating a great looking table or PowerPoint presentation. But unfortunately, this is where the data goes to die. They fail to think about the result they want to achieve overall. Reading a graph is a skill but it doesn’t mean you understand the action needed to make a difference. This requires context and an inquisitive mind to really understand what you need to do with the information you’re presented with.

Organisations often struggle with formulating the precise requests that align with what it needs. This is where the concept of the “”five whys”” comes in to help provide a deeper understanding. Simply by asking “”Why?”” five times we can drill down to the root cause and understand the requirement of what you’re being requested to do. But it’s important to strike a balance, because excessive questioning can lead to frustration. Framing questions as collaborative challenges with phrases like “”how might we…””, helps to foster a sense of urgency and positions data analysts as allies in delivering the right outcomes for their organisation.

Rather than starting with data, the focus should always begin with what the business needs are. By understanding the specific questions and challenges faced by the organisation, data analysts can then identify the most relevant data sources and work out the approach they should take. Analytics initiatives, therefore, become driven. This means you can start to deliver real, actionable insights and allow people to make decisions more effectively.


The biggest barriers to data literacy

There are several factors that can contribute to low levels of data literacy. Firstly, there’s a lack of access to resources and training. Even though there’s a variety of data literacy courses available, access to these resources isn’t always easy to come by which means uptake is low. Secondly, complex data systems make it difficult for people to understand and interpret data, and without access to more simplified systems, data literacy is unlikely to improve.

Many organisations have limited data sharing and lack access to data from multiple sources. This means people simply don’t have all the information they need to analyse data in the most effective way possible. Lastly, and most importantly, without the right culture in place, data literacy is unlikely to be a priority. We need to create a culture that encourages new initiatives, practices and habits to root decisions in data across the organisation and invest in data-related tools and technologies. Without this staff feel less motivated to learn data literacy skills.


Bridging the skills gap

Data literacy is not just about the competency of one person though. What we need to do is address the wider skills gap in organisations. By promoting data literacy and the training that goes along with this within healthcare teams, organisations can start to foster a culture of data-driven decision-making.

Healthcare organisations need to leverage and lean on emerging tech and software that can make sense of complex datasets which are backed up with sector expertise and support to help people understand how to use the data. That’s where teams will really start to gain the most value. With the right guidance and support, users will start to gain a better understanding of the data and be able to navigate it more effectively.

At AdviseInc we’re always on hand to offer insight, support and our expert knowledge of the procurement sector to help our customers gain the most out of their data. We also make our software user friendly so that people can download and view the data they need at the click of a button. Take for example our catalogue analytics which can import data from catalogue providers. This can then be compared against purchase order and inventory management data to provide more holistic and accurate insights.


Improving efficiency and impact  

Embarking on a data analytics journey can be daunting, particularly for those with limited technical skills but it’s about starting small and gradually building their proficiency. Breaking down complex concepts into manageable tasks encourages users to develop their skills incrementally. It also helps to foster a culture that embraces data-driven decision-making.

We need to use people’s data expertise in the most efficient and beneficial way, rather than simply wasting it on copy and paste jobs. By using data analytics software, organisations can automate tasks and shift effort towards more strategic and impactful work. This can become a powerful tool that frees up time for higher-value activities, rather than simply wasting valuable resources on repetitive tasks.


The success of self-service analytics relies on data literacy

In a world that is driven by data, the ability to effectively analyse and interpret information is vital. Data plays a central role in enabling healthcare procurement teams to harness the power of analytics to make informed decisions. The success of being able to analyse data yourself relies on data literacy. A ‘sink or swim’ strategy will simply drown prospective users faced with an overwhelming ocean of data that they don’t know how to process.

The good news is that anyone can learn the basics if they just start small. If we invest in data literacy training and foster a culture that values data-driven insights, the NHS could unlock its huge potential. This would not only improve efficiency but reduce costs, and ultimately deliver better outcomes for patients.

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