Written by Sam Tyler (senior consultant in our healthcare sales & marketing intelligence practice):

Last time, we looked at a way to increase data access. This is a focus of a lot of organizations, but another question that most people overlook or assume they already have the answer to is – what do I do with this data?

“Data access” refers to getting data into a centralized place so that way analysts and managers can get to it quickly. “Data usage” is what you do with the data.

You’ll do one of four things with your data:

#1. REPORTING. Management reporting has been done since systems were invented. But there’s an art that’s been lost. Most reports follow one of three tracks: performance reporting, cycle time reporting, or process reporting (cycle time reports and process reports both focus on processes, but one focuses on efficiency while the latter focuses on work in progress).

#2. SCORECARDS. These beauties are separate from dashboards. Scorecards are all about process and targets. Usually, they are a list of process targets, current values, and some sort of indicator of adherence to the corresponding target.

#3. DASHBOARDS. Unlike their scorecard cousins, dashboards focus on a role. The idea is to get as much information in one place that a single role needs to make decisions. Here, real estate is the key. As one mentor of mine liked to say, “Increase your insights per square inch.” There are rules to make the information clear and useful. You may have heard of the term “actionable insight”. One tip to accomplish that is putting information together with the most likely cause of variances.

For example, “Days in Clinic” for a given provider may be put next to “Number of Appointments”. If both go up or down, problem solved (incidentally, this gave me insight as to why physicians as a whole are more productive in March. March historically has the largest number of working days in the month). If one goes up and the other inverts, you know this is atypical and needs immediate attention.

#4. EXPLORATION. Ah, the most overlooked step of all. Most of the time, managers and executives simply don’t have time to explore data. Analysts do. And they should be encouraged to have a tool that they can explore outliers, anomalies, and other questions. I recommend once a month, 2 hour meetings where the analyst has gone through the reports, explored the reasons why outliers exist, and come up with possible relationships between data elements (there are numerical ways of doing this as well, but visual analysis is still far more intuitive than most methods). The first half hour is the analyst presenting findings. The rest of the time is dedicated to questions executives or managers have regarding any business issues at all.

There are other things that can be done with data, but these four should exist before trying anything else. They are the foundation of everything else.

A quick note on advanced analytics. These tend to be an advanced version of #1 and #4. Predictive analytics present as a report of some future event. Correlations, classifications, etc. tend to be more exploratory in nature. They can also be part of a report. But if you reach for these too soon, you could be punching over your weight class. Next time, we’ll dive more into advanced analytics and data science.