Accuracy is Only Half the Battle


Posted by Paloma Medina

In healthcare, as in most fields, the only thing better than accurate data is accurate data that reaches the right audience — i.e an audience that can turn that data into action/ change/ impact. How good is a comprehensive data set if it remains locked away in the academic realm? However, transforming data into information that shifts paradigms and moves key people into action requires a distinctly different skill set than assuring the accuracy and relevancy of the same data. Consequently, it is not surprising that the people involved in collecting and making sense of raw data are not the same as the folks thinking about how data can achieve maximum impact. Furthermore, these two types of people, the data wranglers and the designers, tend to occupy different spaces. Though this is slowly changing, the two camps traditionally have gone to different schools, worked for different companies, read different magazines, etc. Wagner for example, is teeming with data wranglers (and thankfully so!).  We have a wealth of analysts, evaluators, aggregators, statisticians and general data enthusiasts who bring a wealth of data management experience into the classroom. What we may be missing in our midst are the designers, the ones who are interested in questions such as:

-How do we turn this data into easy-to-reference knowledge?

-What new audiences could our data reach?

-How can we make our data compete with all the other information our audience is bombarded with?

-What makes data useful, digestible, intriguing?

-Can data motivate and inspire?

In healthcare, these questions become incredibly relevant — whether we are administrators interested in training 200 providers in a new procedure or we are program evaluators attempting to create a better way to collect patient feedback. Considering design in our work increases its efficacy because it takes into account what designers know – that just because it’s important doesn’t mean anyone is going to notice or care. Turning data into something people will pay attention to and easily absorb is about so much more than accuracy and relevancy. Good data design taps into aesthetic theory, psychology, anthropology, sociology, branding strategy and so much more. This is precisely what designers can bring to the table.

My question, then, is:

How might the healthcare field benefit from increased collaboration with the design field?

Great strides are being made in this arena. I propose to explore them further in upcoming weeks. I encourage you to continue the conversation with colleagues, and to email me your questions, tips, and links.  For now, I leave you with this:

http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_at_state.html

Paloma Medina is an MPA HPAM 2012 candidate with a specialization in organizational coaching and development. Her background is in homeless health care, community development and design.

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