Storytelling in healthcare can be where change happens. But now that everyone has a platform, how do we cull the wheat from the chaff? My personal "brand" evolved with a commitment to travel to a variety of stakeholder meetings--and listen to a variety of perspectives.
Echo chambers are all the rage now but when you work in a complex environment you must have a 360 view. I remember the days when it was cutting edge to include snippets of data gleaned from articles on PubMed. So what if the actual survey data was from 2007-- it was data all the same.
Fast forward to today and not only should you evaluate the survey infrastructure for rigor and relevance but you better have context from multiple data sources. What once was a data dump about type 2 diabetes epidemiology would lack utility in the modern healthcare environment.
When I am training in the pool, swimming becomes a metaphor for everything, true, but hear me out. When your lead arm enters the pool it should optimally function like an anchor. Erase whatever you may have learned about thrashing your arms and pulling through the water--it is wrong.
If your hand grabs the water similar to a rung on a ladder you will quite literally glide past your arm. A correctly timed hip rotation and a 2-beat kick and you are on your way. The effect is increased efficiency, grace, and hopefully a little something left for the bike and run to follow.
You need to think similarly when integrating data into your words and pictures. One singular perspective is not a narrative or a strategy. There is a lot more under the surface and coordinating your data strategy allows a smoother and graceful implementation. Step outside the INDUSTRY brand and look at the parts that make up the whole. When I read news articles and INDUSTRY is cited as either the icon of pharmaceutical companies or a derogatory scapegoat I tend to bristle.
Many of us working in INDUSTRY aren't on the manufacturing side but it is all part of the same narrative. If you choose to distort your role and deny the multiple sources of information on the periphery--it is at your own peril.
Think about research as a similar fulcrum. Or better yet, the art of telling a story. Visualizing data is the art of a narrative. The data itself means nothing without context and a time element. When looking at data, a simple graphic is only a snapshot in time. It becomes a story when there is context AND an arc of periodicity. You need "movement".
Look at the graphic below. We could easily be curious about the percent of uninsured in metro areas for the year 2015. But where is the actual story? I would argue it exists because of the time element. It creates a curiosity and deeper granularity. What was happening during the years where percentage of uninsured in the population decreased? Did access to healthcare improve? What about policy influences? Perhaps we can layer data from Affordable Healthcare Act enrollment or other federal census data and see what trends are revealed. What did employment look like in metro years during similar time periods? You get where I am going. Join me.
Let me leave you with another vital resource of informative data, FedStats. There is a lot to explore but your words and pictures will thank you. You can export data and analyze or explore the graphics and reports. It has never been a better time to ask questions--or to question answers.
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In a world of "evidence-based" medicine I am a bigger fan of practice-based evidence.
Remember the quote by Upton Sinclair...
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
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