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Data Storytelling: A Way to Connect to the Human Experience in Healthcare

In our increasingly data-driven world, the need to understand, work with, and communicate effectively with data has become an essential skill to drive change. Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in the contemporary healthcare landscape.   Driven by data, analytics has assumed a pivotal role at all levels of organizational decision-making from the board room to the bedside and beyond. 


transparent images of charts and graphs and digital data appear in front of a clinical staff

While data does play a key role in driving change and understanding the complexity of human experience in healthcare, it alone is not enough to bring about improved patient experience.  We cannot rely exclusively on numerical data and metrics to compel action.  This article explores the importance of humanizing data in healthcare and looks at how effective data communication techniques, such as data storytelling can be the bridge between numbers that numb and stories that resonate.


Data and the Patient Experience

The healthcare ecosystem is awash with data.  Healthcare has no shortage of measurement and data points informing hospitals and care providers of the challenges to their delivery of care.  As an industry, we have acquired a vast wealth of data concerning the patient experience which reflects back to care providers the patient's perception of their care.


This point has been taken up by many including Denise Wiseman, a self-proclaimed “ruckus maker” and Founder of the PX Community who has made the astute observation that the publicly reported Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores which hospitals use to measure patient experience "have not made positive national improvement since 2016.  Regardless of the growth in the number of PX professionals, the addition of CXOs, extensive surveying, many consultants, and overall expenditure of time, money, and resources."


Wiseman, along with fellow thought leader Lonnie Hirsch, have recently founded the Healthcare Reinvention Collaborative, “a synergistic collaborative that connects, empowers and amplifies diverse efforts to improve healthcare delivery and experience for all”.


As a member of this effort and an invited participant at the inaugural meeting of minds, I had the opportunity to share my own perspective on this issue through the lens of communication and data:  How Data Storytelling Can Move the Needle in Communication and Decision Making


social media tile promoting healthcare reinvention collaborative sound bite


 

Every Row of Data is a Life

Amidst the sea of numbers and statistics, the human aspect of data can easily be overlooked. Behind every data point lies a story, a life, and a narrative waiting to be understood. What genuinely ignites change is the capacity to communicate the data in a way that humanizes it-communication that extends beyond charts, graphs, and target metrics.


a hospital employee delivers a presentation; a graph is visible on the flip chart behind her

Effective communication of data serves as the bridge between raw data and actionable insights. Data savvy extends beyond crunching numbers; it involves understanding the context in which data operates and empathizing with the individuals it represents. Empathy is key in data communication, as it allows both creators and consumers of data to uncover meaningful insights that drive positive change.



Effective communication techniques, such as data storytelling, help by infusing the human element into data.  Data communication transcends from mere statistics to a rich narrative. This narrative can serve as a conduit, unifying stakeholders' objectives and bridging the gap between clinical care, administrative decisions, and the patient experience. Ultimately, it fosters a unified approach towards improving healthcare outcomes and enhancing the quality of care.

 

How Data Storytelling Can Move the Needle in Healthcare Human Experience

Data analysis and storytelling may seem like disparate disciplines, but they are intricately linked. Effective storytelling can extract the human element from data, making it relatable and compelling to a broader audience. By weaving narratives around data, visualizations can convey complex insights in a manner that resonates emotionally and drives action.

 


a nurse and patient sit on the edge of a bed in a caring posture; backs to camera

Stories have a unique ability to evoke emotions, compelling individuals to take action, and data acts as the compass that rationalizes and guides these actions.  Stories are what make information meaningful and memorable. To motivate stakeholders, staff, nurses, patients, or volunteers, data should be wrapped in a personal and impactful narrative. Sometimes, multiple patient stories can be combined into one persona, much like a movie "inspired by true events." This approach finds commonalities and creates a powerful narrative.

 

Bringing Humanity Back to Data-Driven Decisions

Incorporating empathy into data communication not only enriches insights but also informs ethical decision-making. By acknowledging the human stories behind the numbers, decision makers can navigate the delicate balance between data-driven insights and human needs.


Universal narratives, like the desires for love, safety, freedom, and the universal fears of failure and abandonment, resonate across diverse demographics—bridging age, gender, and cultural divides. This understanding of the shared human experience transcends the limitations of mere numbers and reports, offering a more potent catalyst for driving meaningful change in healthcare practices and policies.

 

 

Summary

Data storytelling is a powerful way to keep the human experience at the center of healthcare decision-making. It allows us to connect on a deeper level with the data's narrative and, in turn, make more compassionate, informed decisions.

 

By recognizing the potential of data stories, healthcare professionals can transform their practices, putting people at the forefront of their decision-making processes. In doing so, they not only enhance patient care but also create a more humane and empathetic healthcare system for all.

 

In the journey from data to humanity, storytelling serves as a transformative tool that bridges the gap between abstract statistics and human experiences. Healthcare decision makers are reminded to approach each row of data with empathy, recognizing the lives it represents and the stories it tells. By humanizing data, we not only enrich our understanding of the world but also pave the way for a more compassionate care.

 
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Roseanna Galindo is Principal at Periscope Business Process Analysis and a champion for data literacy, the human experience in healthcare, and leaders of volunteers everywhere. Learn more about Roseanna and her blog, The Periscope Insighter, by reading the opening post, Venn The Time Is Right

Roseanna is available for training, keynotes, and executive coaching. Visit PeriscopeBPA.com for more information.

 

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