In healthcare, like many large industries, we have access to a mind-boggling amount of data. Data tells us how much money we spend with each vendor, the level of satisfaction of our customers, and how much inventory is on hand.
“You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data,” said Daniel Keys Moran (DKM), an American computer programmer and science fiction writer.
To take his quote a step further, you must also have information to gain knowledge, and we know that Sir Francis Bacon taught us that, “Knowledge is power.”
In short, taking data, organizing and analyzing it, then using it to tell a story is a powerful tool allowing organizations to make deliberate decisions that effect the organization and ultimately its customers.
Examining Healthcare Compliance Data
In looking at inventory management as an example, it is easy to see how we can easily take data, isolate useful information about our inventory, and make ordering decisions based on the available data. Inventory systems help us to keep track of how many reams of paper we have on hand and how many we order on a monthly basis. At a basic level, we could simply take an average of the number of reams used each month and base our optimal supply level on that average. But simply taking an average doesn’t always stop us from running out of paper.
We have to look deeper to understand when we might need more paper.
Most offices are based on cycles – audits, year-end close, etc. So we know that if we anticipate year-end close is in the month of June, we will need 25% more paper for the accounting department. Using paper inventory levels, both from a macro and micro perspective, helps us to use data in a meaningful way to help us operate our business.
The deeper and more thoughtfully we examine our inventory data, the more useful it can be in minimizing operational costs and maximizing efficiency. But data is not always clear, and not always cut and dry.
Cleaning messy data
So how do we take messy data that gives us incomplete or foggy information, and turn it into something useful?
We all tend to wear many hats in our jobs, so the data we are presented with is often vast and fragmented. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of data that is out there. Starting with the end in mind, rather than waiting for answers to emerge from the data, is an effective way to help you weed your way through the data.
One project we have been working on recently is segmenting our customers using internal data. We started with a hypothesis about our customer segments, and then compared what we thought to what we can prove using our own data.
While we weren’t surprised about the overall results, there were some interesting discoveries about our customer base. Now that we have translated data into usable information, we will use that information to better understand our customer base and improve our marketing efforts.
Clean data can improve the overall effectiveness of your organization’s OIG compliance program. Dashboards in healthcare can help clean and organize data. Read our previous blog of compliance dashboards here.
Data can be vast and overwhelming, but starting with a clear goal in mind will help you navigate through it all to help you tell your story. We can all make assumptions or educated guesses, but using data to gain usable information and knowledge will only help you and your organization make meaningful decisions.
Not only will this data-driven approach make your organization smarter, but it will make you an invaluable part of your team.
What are some ways analyzing data has improved your work? Comment below!
You might also enjoy:
Healthcare compliance solutions you should be using
6 steps to ensure vendor compliance
OIG compliance program guidance for hospitals
Risk assessment: reliable data can improve your OIG compliance program
This post was originally published February 27, 2014 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.