I am not going to pretend that everyone is excited about the prospect of needing to digest the fire-hose of information and the statistical rigor required to create meaningful metrics but what I can offer is a user-friendly guide through the haze of clinical research data (is it meaningful?), EHR data (is it useful or actionable?), medical education outcomes data (am I measuring what I think I am measuring), or just a rosetta stone for asking the right questions.
Here is my evolving definition of an insight analyst. I adopted the term when I observed that quite often I am not involved in the most important phases of biostatistical analysis. Rigorous data collection begins with the design of the study, data collection methodology, analysis, presentation, followed by the interpretation. What can I say about the trends in my data? Because many of the parts of the puzzle are missing I never feel like a true data analyst and because I pull in the scientific context I feel more integrated than a statistician. What I know for sure now that I see a lot of data--there are insights in all steps of data visualization and analyses. Perhaps the level of certitude in any particular outcome is a little less robust but 'all in all' there is a substantive truth to be revealed. In full disclosure I did study statistics throughout my postgrad education but like many of you it was a parallel universe. Too 'mathy' to be functional or accessible outside of a classroom or a specific project.
Now that you have collected the data, how do you summarize, deal with variability, distinguish real patterns from random variation, what can you infer to larger population, what methods to use? What is the best way to visualize the data? What are the main messages? How to communicate uncertainty in estimates?
While it isn't required, you can pick up a copy of a little resource that I pulled together. I might use examples from some of the freely available healthcare data on the internet and you can find them here for less than the price of a latte. If I find a particular useful link for you to dive a little deeper in your analytics I will also provide that for you.
Let's do this...
"Statistics are like swimwear - what they reveal is suggestive but what they conceal is vital."
-Ashish Mahajan, Lancet 2007
bonny p mcclain, freelance health economics writer and insight analyst