I Want it All and I Want it Now!

In our “on demand” society where the mantra “I want it ALL and I want it NOW” is commonplace, I say — it is time to step back and think.

Don’t run that nebulous query, don’t publish that ill-defined report. Draw a line in the sand and demand that everyone thinks about, discusses and explores what problems are trying to be solved, what questions need to be answered. What is it that you really need to learn from your healthcare data?

Back away from the data long enough to think, discuss and consider your goals and no one will get hurt.

Why is this important? Because, in the current and emerging — but wildly nascent — world of healthcare data, we need to remember that often times our most serious failures are not the result of wrong answers. But rather, that we have failed to ask the right questions arrived at through thoughtful discourse.

Or, in the words of the Cheshire cat: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” (Love that cat).

I can hear your eyes rolling, “yeah right — what planet does this woman live on — everyone in my organization wants it ALL and they want it NOW.”

I live on the planet EIBFAS – Experience Informed by Failure and Success.

Indulge me momentarily and consider how many times you have either said or heard the following:

“This report isn’t what I asked for.”

“I gave you exactly what you asked for in the report — and I can prove it with the email you sent me .”

And around it goes.

Yes, I hear the knowing laughs — I see your head nodding.

So, how can you avoid this black hole of frustration and blame? This fifth dimension of sheer futility? How can you facilitate productive conversations that will move you down the path of successful reporting with the data currently available to you?

Above all else, learn to channel your inner Socrates. Before you ask for or agree to create a report think about asking questions that:

1. Clarify.
What question are you trying to answer, problem do you need to solve? What is an example?

2. Probe reasons and evidence.
What are you assuming about the data, the people using the data, the decisions that need to be made? What might you assume instead?

3. Seek to understand viewpoints and perspectives.
When you say ________ do you mean________?

4. Probe implications and consequences.
Is this the most important question, or is there an underlying issue that is really the question? How can we find out?

Clearly none of us are going to change the “on demand” culture that we have collectively created — but when it comes to the critical work of healthcare data analysis and reporting, we can and must choose to slow down, think through our objectives and correctly set our and everyone else’s expectations.

Because it is true — if you don’t know where you are going, any road really will get you there — I promise.

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