Unleash Your Inner Healthcare Data

A free twice-monthly guide to understanding, presenting and using healthcare data, information and evidence.

Katherine S. Rowell @ Associates

Katherine S. Rowell @ Associates


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April 15, 2011                Volume 2 Issue 8           


Hi Everyone!


Welcome to spring and baseball...glorious baseball.


In this issue learn how you can make healthcare data, information and evidence more accessible to patients, their families and all stakeholders in the healthcare system with the simple addition of examples.  I am willing to bet when you see how baseball uses examples to bring their stats to life, you will be persuaded about their power to make information more accessible and relatable for your audience.


And speaking of baseball, take a few minutes to check out "who's on first"... because the classics never get old...and a good laugh at the end of the week is always a welcome thing.


In keeping with a theme, I review Doulas W. Hubbard's book "How to Measure Anything" -- and he means anything. 


And finally, don't forget to check out our upcoming public workshops -- or drop us a note to learn about a private workshop or advisory services for your group.   


All the very best,

Kathy Signature 

Katherine S. Rowell

Principal | Founder


P.S. The permanent link for this newsletter is here.

Who's on First and What's on Second?

My beloved Red Sox had their worst start (0 and 6) since 1945.  This horrific start to the season was made even more painful when you consider the fact that in 1945 all of the best baseball players were overseas fighting the Second World War.  And as if that weren't bad enough, Sports Illustrated picked this year's Red Sox team to win the World Series. Have we been cursed yet again?  Say it ain't so...

Good news, I went to opening day at Fenway Park and the Red Sox beat the NY Yankees (final score 9 to 6 - yeah baby!) and ended their six game losing streak.  Red Sox pitcher John Lackey pitched five innings gave up six runs and got the win.  Second baseman Dustin Pedroia hit the first homerun of the Red Sox home season, went three for five and drove in three runs...  


And yes, like any true baseball junkie my heroin is the statistics;  I have found nirvana and its address is www.redsox.com

The stats on this site are so interesting and so readily available.  They can be sorted and analyzed easily and quickly and the displays are clear and easy to understand -- there are even tutorials about them with examples that breathe life into the stats. 

And it's the examples that I love the most. 

The examples here make the game much more accessible, interesting, engaging and relatable.  When I read examples that include players I recognize and terms that I hear regularly it draws me in completely -- now I really care about the statistics because I can relate to them.


Red Sox Table

Now consider how we can use baseball's inclusion of examples in the same table as terms and definitions as a guide for how to make healthcare data and information more understandable, accessible and relatable for patients and their families. 


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is making great efforts to craft a public information campaign about healthcare terminology and efforts to improve the quality and delivery of care.  They have done an admirable job with the following glossary of terms but it could be greatly improved with the addition of examples in a consistent format all in one table.   

Here is a partial snapshot of the current HHS Glossary:


HHS Table



Since the beginning of time, the "example" has been the foundation and formation of knowledge because examples "complete" the meaning of things.  See how the addition of a few examples in a separate column completes this table and connects the term and definition to something concrete that patients and their families can relate to and ask their caregivers about.






Hospital Acquired Condition

A medical condition that a patient develops during a hospital stay. 

Patients who had a catheter placed as part of their care and developed a urinary tract infection (UTI).


Patients who were injured as the result of a fall during a hospital stay.

Hospital Outcomes of Care Measures

An evaluation of the results (outcomes) of care or treatment(s) that a patient received in the hospital.


By evaluating the outcomes of care hospitals are able to identify potential opportunities to improve care.

Patients who had to be               re-admitted to the hospital for care within 30-days of their hospital discharge date.


Patients who died within 30-days of their hospital discharge date.

Hospital Process of Care Measures

Medical treatments and care that have been shown to improve patients' care.


Hospitals identify patients who would benefit from these processes of care and then they monitor how well they have delivered them to those patients.



For most patients undergoing surgery giving an antibiotic before surgery has been shown to reduce infections after surgery.

Hospitals measure and report how many patients were candidates to receive an antibiotic before surgery compared to how many of those patients actually received antibiotics before surgery.


When a heart attack patient arrives at the hospital an aspirin can help keep blood clots from forming and dissolve blood clots that can cause a heart attack.

Hospitals measure and report how many patients arrived at the hospital that were having a heart attack, or thought to be having a heart attack, compared to how many of those same patients received an aspirin when they arrived at the hospital.

Why are examples so important?

First of all they give credibility. They make what you are describing seem possible -- real -- not just an idea or a theory. Examples also lend personality to information. Bland facts and theories are easily forgotten but stories and examples are more often retained.

When you are communicating healthcare data, information and evidence to any audience the inclusion of simple examples will vastly improve comprehension and retention.  When patients and/or family members view this information they will remember it if it is explained with examples that mirror the experiences they may have in a hospital or doctor's office.  The information will be recognizable, and yes relatable. 

And it isn't just patients, it is any viewer of your information and reports -- the more you can create a story and include examples like real patient experiences or clinical case details, the more your audience will remember and interact with you and your reports.

I love baseball - really, truly love it -- almost as much as I love the power of a really great example or story to make data and information accessible and real. 


Now can someone remind me -- who's on first and what's on second..........?  

Who's On First?
Who's On First?


Reading Room

"Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted."   Albert Einstein


How to Measure Anything

by:  Douglas W. Hubbard 


Douglas W. Hubbard's book, "How to Measure Anything" is not one that you will curl up and read on a rainy day by a cozy fire, but it is a terrific reference for anyone who has to measure and report "what matters."  Although the focus is not healthcare specific, there is a lot of great and user friendly information that is structured around two basic principles:

1. A measurement is any metric that reduces uncertainty and aids the decision process.

2. If it's meaningful, there's a way to measure it -- even if you can only measure its downstream effects.

How to Manage Anything
I agree with Hubbard.  You can measure anything.  But what makes this book worthwhile is its relentless focus on ensuring what you measure has meaning and -- sadly -- a whole lot of what gets measured doesn't. 

And who can resist chapters with titles like:


  • Building an Intuition for Random Sampling: The Jelly Bean Example
  •  A Little about Little Samples: A Beer Brewer's Approach

Or my favorite:


  • Homo absurdus: the Weird Reasons Behind Our Decisions

Imagine -- measurement made fun.


Workshops 1 & II -- Back by Popular Demand


At the end of March I conducted two public workshops focused on helping healthcare professionals to find the story in their data and communicate it clearly and compellingly with tables, graphs and dashboards.  The response was phenomenal and so I have decided to offer them again in June! 


Here are just a few things folks had to say:


An excellent day, very hands on, very valuable and a lot to take away.  I learned many new things and your expertise is clear.  Thank you!! 


Judy Cote | Director Perioperative Services U Mass Memorial Health Center


Kathy Rowell is an insightful instructor and data analytics coach.  Her workshops on Visualizing Healthcare Data provided valuable tools and problem-solving techniques clearly rooted in her extensive experience with health care data.  The synergy in the room was valuable as well.  Combining the strengths of analysts and data managers from industries that support health care, as well as hospital-based services, created lively team exercises.  I highly recommend Kathy as an instructor, consultant and coach.
Donna Antonelli, BS, CPHQ |Surgical Quality Data Manager | Mass General Hospital 


Nice job!  I just wanted you to know how much I truly enjoyed today's Workshop --Thank You! 


Peter Logue | Principal Twin Peaks Group

And so many participants asked when the next workshops would be...so...back by popular demand:


Workshop I -- Communicating Healthcare Data with Tables and Graphs

 Wednesday, June 22, 2011 | Waltham, MA

Workshop II -- Dashboard Design for Communicating Healthcare Data

 Thursday, June 23, 2011 | Waltham, MA 
 Click here for additional details and to register for upcoming Workshops.  

Want to send a group of five or more?  Drop us a note and we will contact you about our group discounts.

Interested in a private, customized Workshop for your group?  Contact us and we will be in touch to discuss your needs. 


We teach and advise organizations how to correctly capture and manage their healthcare data and how to communicate it clearly and compellingly.

For more details on our educational and advisory services:

Call us: 617-797-6471 | Email us: info@ksrowell.com 

Visit Our Website: www.ksrowell.com

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Copyright © 2011, Katherine S. Rowell & Associates, LLC. All rights reserved.