Make Your Data Sing!


Our Chief Executive, Maxine Power, is across the pond in Orlando attending the 28th IHI Annual National Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care.

The forum is the premier conference for people committed to the mission of improving health care. Maxine will be presenting a workshop: Make Your Data Sing, jointly with Lloyd Provost, Statistician, Associates in Process Improvement. In her latest blog from the sunshine state, Maxine shows us how data provides insights to develop improvement strategies.

I’ve had the absolute pleasure for the last ten years of working with frontline health and care professionals committed to making improvements in the care that they provide. One thing that always surprises me is how little people are focussed on data for improvement in their routine daily work.

Back in 2006, I worked with frontline, ward based teams on reducing C.difficile in six elderly care wards. Salford Royal had been collecting data on C. Difficile for over six years as part of a large scale national improvement programme. At the beginning of our journey together I remember asking the ward managers for each of the six units what I thought was a simple question ‘how many cases of C. Difficile did you have last month?’ To my surprise not a single ward manager could answer that question. By the end of the improvement programme they had this information at their fingertips and were displaying it on notice boards and celebrating the days between a hospital acquired case. The transition was stark and relatively easy. Nowadays these exact same leaders are driven by real time data and realise the potential of data to help them understand how to improve.

How does this have relevance to our work at the IHI forum?

We want to explore how we can make data a part of the routine daily work for EVERY healthcare professional, regardless of whether or not they are part of an improvement programme.

Today, I am running a session with Lloyd Provost at the IHI 28th International Forum in Orlando called ‘make your data sing’. The session is an experiment, a test of change which Lloyd and I have put together to juxtapose two worlds: the world of Deming and the world of storytelling through progressive digital and visual imagery. The session is an opportunity to better understand how we use data over time to understand variation – something which is essential for improvement, whilst also capturing the knowledge and learning behind the data. We introduce three essential considerations when connecting to data: annotate; animate and emote.

ANNOTATE: Our teams will learn about the power of plotting data over time to understand the rate of change but also how different types of annotation help bring the data alive.

ANIMATE: We often overwhelm people with charts which seem impossible to interpret and yet the opportunity to reveal data as part of a story and learning narrative has never been more evident. Our teams will see examples of annotation which are experimenting with new information and annotation strategies.

EMOTE: Disaster relief research has provide emergent evidence to suggest that a single story can be more powerful in calling people to action than a shocking string of statistics. Our ability to draw on peoples emotions when reviewing data needs to be understood and exploited if we want to connect frontline teams with data in a meaningful way.

I think today we are opening up a conversation about data which we, here in Haelo will be wrangling with for some time to come. We’d love to hear your views on the subject. Stay connected and share with us your best examples of ‘letting your data sing’.

 See the reaction on twitter @_Haelo or with the #datachoir


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  1. Hi,

    I am inquiring on how the video-based control chart was made, specifically what program was employed to make my data “sing”? #DataChoir

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for your interest! The video-based control chart was created with Adobe After Effects. We redrew an Excel generated control chart in that program and animated it, adding archive footage sourced from YouTube and a short video we shot with Maxine.