4 Ways Healthcare Associations Can Promote Data Literacy

March 19, 2024
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Modern technology—such as EHRs, AI, and machine learning platforms—has launched healthcare into the digital space. It’s even estimated that hospitals produce an average of 50 petabytes of data a year. These new advancements beg the question, how can organizations ensure their staff can leverage this data for enhanced patient care?

Unfortunately, there is a growing gap between collected healthcare data and its application, as a survey by Philips found that a staggering 35% of young healthcare professionals don’t know how to use digital patient data to make informed decisions.

This is where healthcare data literacy comes into play. In this guide, we’ll explore the importance of data literacy and delve into practical ways your organization can sharpen its skills.

What is healthcare data literacy?

Data literacy is the capacity to comprehend, interpret, and communicate data in context which includes an understanding of the relevant data sources, analytics methods, and techniques applied and their resulting value.

Providers must have a high data literacy level to extract meaningful insights from patterns within data sets. For example, physicians assess patient data to identify potential risk factors which inform diagnosis and treatment plans. Then, they continue to analyze data to track patient progress and adjust accordingly.

In short, high data literacy levels enable data-backed decision-making, improved patient care, regulatory compliance, and more efficient operations that save valuable time and resources. Let’s dive into how your organization can promote data literacy and experience these advantages below.

4 Ways healthcare associations can promote data literacy

1. Appoint a data governance committee

At an organizational level, a health system monitors data literacy. However, it’s helpful to build a data governance committee to steer your organization in the right direction and stay on top of data utilization trends. That way, your healthcare organization can encourage effective healthcare data management and proactively address any obstacles.

This group should represent multiple disciplines from IT managers to clinicians and administrative executives. Together, the committee may be responsible for managing and executing the following objectives:

  • Developing data governance policies for data management, usage, and security
  • Monitoring and maintaining the accuracy, consistency, and reliability of the data
  • Aligning data governance with the organization’s overall strategic initiatives
  • Ensuring adherence to existing and emerging regulatory standards
  • Defining data access and data usage expectations

The committee may also focus on more specific objectives like recruiting new analytics talent, evaluating your existing data literacy courses, or finding new technology solutions for your team to adopt.

2. Address knowledge gaps with an outcomes improvement plan

An outcomes improvement plan provides a strategic approach for how your team plans to address and overcome the inefficiencies and inaccuracies associated with limited data literacy. It also sets the tone for how you’ll prevent future knowledge gaps. You can determine the scope and purpose of your plan by asking:

  • What data literacy problem areas are we experiencing? Nail down particular areas where providers are facing roadblocks. For instance, a new internal survey may reveal that providers lack proficiency in navigating EHR workflows.
  • What specific outcomes do we want to improve? Identify clear, measurable goals your team can begin to work towards. For instance, this could be improved data literacy for predictive modeling risk assessments so that your team can produce more accurate and detailed preventive care strategies.
  • What new methods or technologies will support our goals? Research and determine the relevant tools or methods that can help you achieve your data literacy goals. For example, you might implement a purpose-built learning management system (LMS) to customize an educational program for your members.

Collaborate with your data governance committee to finalize your outcomes improvement plan and determine how you will measure progress. You might decide to review industry benchmarks and current best practices to inform your view of the problem and the best solutions for it.

3. Choose relevant tools and methods

Before you put your outcomes improvement plan into motion, you need to pinpoint the tools and methods that your team will use. This means your leadership must have an in-depth knowledge of provider workflows, needs, and barriers to success. As an example, Arcadia’s healthcare data warehouse guide suggests looking for a platform that supports these common data needs:

  • Integration. Find a platform that will easily integrate field data from EHRs, HR management systems, claims management systems, and large public health databases. This way, your providers won’t have to deal with missing data points or potentially misreading unstandardized data.
  • Quality. Prioritize software with strict quality controls that monitor accuracy, completeness, and consistency. Built-in processes like data cleaning and validation can ensure your providers are accessing comprehensive and reliable patient data.
  • Scalability. Choose a solution that will serve your organization’s current and future needs. You’ll need to find one that can handle large data volumes as your organization and patient needs expand.
  • Interoperability. Data silos prevent care teams from accessing the whole picture. Select a platform that will synchronize your providers' workflows so they can find all the context they need and easily execute care coordination.

Once you’ve chosen a method or software solution that checks all of the above, opt for gradual implementation that allows providers to ask questions and experiment with customization. Depending on what methods or tools you decide to use, roll out the process in stages. This way, providers can feel comfortable and equipped once the new tools are in full force.

4. Provide ongoing training

Finally, look for ways you can provide ongoing training and support for your providers. This may mean conducting regular assessments to pinpoint learning development opportunities. Then, offer courses, seminars, white papers, and demonstrations to bridge data literacy gaps.

Over time, introduce embedded learning opportunities such as cross-departmental collaboration, simulation exercises, and continued education to provide more practical, immediate guidance and feedback on individual literacy development.

Promoting increased data literacy across your organization can help encourage a culture of data-driven decision-making, which will ultimately improve your healthcare outcomes. Be sure to incorporate data literacy into your leadership discussions and outline an action plan to strengthen your operations. As you implement new methods and technologies, remember to prioritize the provider perspective and offer ongoing training and support.

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