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The Importance of Making Healthcare Data Understandable and Actionable

A wealth of data is no good to a healthcare business (or any other kind, for that matter) unless the people charged with using that information can make sense of it and take the appropriate actions. In a world of Big Data, how can bite-sized pieces be obtained?

That’s the domain of Zach Gemignani, co-founder and CEO of Juice Analytics, a Nashville-based company he and his brother co-founded in 2005 to help companies cross the last bridge from data collection and visualization to action. He says that being able to see the data is key to making it operational in a meaningful way.

“There are a lot of ways you can visualize data,” Gemignani says. “There are a lot of dashboards. There’s a lot of analytical tools. For us, we like to focus on building what we call ‘data stories’ in these applications that we create. We want to walk people through the data the way a story does, in a kind of narrative flow. Then they can, step by step, go along for a journey as they explore the data to understand what they should do about it.”

He says that a data-usage tool should focus on the end user first and work backwards rather than starting with the data and going outwards.

“We often talk about people first — that end user, their job, how busy they are, how comfortable they are with data,” he explains. “If you start from your audience and you start from thinking about how you can help those people be successful in their jobs, you’re going to build a better way of exploring, of giving people data and giving them access to it. What you build is going to be more intuitive and digestible for them.”

Creating Platforms for Diverse User Groups

To explain what that looks like in a workplace with hundreds, of not thousands, of data users Gemignani relates Juice Analytics’ current experience with a major state agency in Tennessee.

“We’re working with the Tennessee Department of Education, which as part of their mandate provides a lot of data to all the schools and school districts across the State,” he says. “Thousands of schools have access to data about school performance. On the one hand, the department has been delivering that data for a long time, but it’s delivered in a way that I think a lot of schools and school administrators have struggled with.”

The Juice team is working a way to create a data stream for schools and school systems’ annual strategic plans. In short, data-driven decision-making. These plans are very comprehensive and also very granular, detailing the way schools need to their resources for the upcoming academic period. That includes:

  • how they’re performing today
  • how they’re performing relative to schools like them
  • where they can get the most impact for their investment

“We built a series of views of school performance data, covering many different topics from academic performance to the climate in the schools, to college and career readiness of the students,” Gemignani says. “And we’re giving them these kinds of data stories that can be shared with school districts to provide visibility they never had before around how they’re performing across time, how that compares to their peers and, and then guides them to find insights in the data that can be the foundation for their strategic planning.”

The goal is to allow schools and school districts are able to see that data and focus their attention on the areas where they really are struggling the most, or where they believe that they can have a major impact. That, in turn, will lead to strategic plans much more guided by the reality of their situation and where they can accomplish more.

“That’s what we try to do with data.” Gemignani says. “Take all the data that’s been sitting around for a while and maybe delivered through PDF reports and Excel reports, lots of all different formats, and put it into these data stories that are going to be very digestible. Then we walk the audience through how to use data in a way that’s going to make them, um, more well-informed and make for better decisions.” 

About Zach Gemignani:

Zach Gemignani is co-founder and CEO of Juice Analytics, a Nashville-based company helping transform how people communicate with data. Its products include Juicebox, a SaaS platform for delivering interactive data-storytelling applications to inform smarter decisions. He also is author of the Wiley book Data Fluency: Empowering Your Organization with Effective Data Communication, has served on the leadership committee for the Nashville Analytic Summit for several years and has been named a Most Admired CEO by the Nashville Business Journal.

This blog post is taken from a HealthStream Second Opinions Podcast that was recorded recently. To hear Zach Gemignani’s full discussion, click here.

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