Healthcare organizations spend tens of millions on sophisticated data collection and storage, yet it is hard to define what data is worth to an organization. What is its true value? This depends entirely on how the organization uses it. If an organization does not understand how to interpret and make use of their current and historical data, they will not optimize the return on this significant investment.
Numbers mean nothing by themselves. Whether it’s an income statement, community demographics, or COVID hospitalizations, all data receives its meaning only when interpreted in context. This is why people can look at the same set of numbers and come away with two very different conclusions. Without context, data is useless.
For example, many organizations have terabytes upon terabytes of data stored, but when your context is “these unprecedented times,” how valuable is that historical data? You must have an understanding of the situation surrounding the historical data to understand whether and how it can be properly applied to current conditions.
It is also wise to consider the context of the person, team, or organization interpreting the data. Do they have a wide range or many years of experience? Do they have particular expertise to understand the nuances of the numbers they’re reading?
It is natural and right for organizations to desire to avoid past mistakes. One of the ways they venture to do that is through data analysis to pinpoint what went wrong. However, the numbers alone are not enough to prevent repeating history. It takes a deeper level of discernment to avoid both relying on past data too much and ignoring relevant data points. It requires balance.