Latest guest post by Richard Corbridge, see more by him here.

At a recent event I have the great opportunity to see Mark Bowden present on the impact of body language on the art of the business conversation. Mark provides a thesis on how the evolution of man has impacted and still impacts today on how we present ourselves and how we are heard. His ideas got me thinking about how a similar theory could be applied to the delivery of Business Intelligence, how we present data in healthcare has an impact on how it is understood, since Dr. John Snow provided one of the first recognised uses of data visualisation to prevent the spread of Cholera from the famous water pump in Soho in the nineteenth century.

Mark proposes that body language creates four types of reaction based attitudes, these four types are; Friend, Predator, Sexual partner and Indifferent. Now if we use these four types and apply them to the reaction of receiving new data and turning it into information then I wonder if it will give us a new clue that we can apply to the delivery of health information to patient and clinicians alike.

The brain makes judgements that can be traced right back to early man, open palms indicate no weapons or tools and dependent on at what height you place these hands you will create a change in the tone of the conversation. A similar theory can be applied to data I would suggest, open data that is easy to understand and where the source of the data can be traced will be far more trustworthy or friendly than complex data where the reader will become suspicious of the message that the data is trying to describe to the reader.

Digital projects can be described as sexy projects; certainly my team have in the past commented that the sexy projects in the healthcare system are elements like the Electronic Health Record implementation and the Individual Health Identifier. If we start to look at the comparison to Mark’s ideas around types though the sexual partner element to me speaks of the visualisation tools for data rather than the data itself. If you consider the ability to view data and turn it into information as being the act of wooing the data then just maybe this is where the comparisons can be applied. There is a data visualisation tool for everyone, somewhere out there, whether it’s the latest from Microsoft, Cognos, Oracle or Qlik or whether it’s the coolest open source kid on the market tools are needed to get meaning from data, to drive insight and the art of the possible rather than the history lesson of the past.

What would predator data be in this story though, in health I think it is unproven data that is then used either in research to claim a hypothesis vis-à-vis Ben Goldacre and his bad data research or the data point grabbed at and used by influencers to argue a point that needs a wider view to understand. The media can be rather predator like with data in healthcare, using a single data point to make an argument can and will sell a story, but the impact of predator data needs to be considered more and more as those stories have an impact on the lives of everyone involved.

The indifferent element has to be the attitude to data, one that I think has changed hugely in the last five years. The concept of a data scientist, the coolest member of any team really considering how to do good in the healthcare digital world for me has revolutionised the way data is considered. Authors like Nate Silver and his amazing book The Signal and the Noise have made data cool and then Martin Lindstrom and Small Data have made it applicable to every part of daily life. So the indifferent stance could well be such a small proportion in healthcare today that it begins the evolution we have all been looking for. At a meeting recently a Chief Clinical Information Officer  from Northern Ireland admitted publicly that he had been so excited by some new data visualization tools and what he could now tell from his data that he had been up all night ‘playing’ with the data, clinicians as data scientists and enthusiasts is a giant and welcome leap.

Our brains make judgements based on very original and yet very early evolved, primitive situations even today and even with digital information. Content of data is ‘king’ but the art of the visualisation is what will turn-on the reader the most. The default to body language has to be indifference to enable the world to move forward, but the indifference to data as it seeps away can only improve how we deliver healthcare. Clinicians excited by live data, patients collecting information about their lifestyles and from wearable technology through to the possibilities of genomic sequencing and predictive analytics. All of these changes and innovations in healthcare data really are making a change to how we consider the delivery of care.

Data requires a good listener though; we need to now ‘educate’ the patient to be able to listen to this new paradigm in healthcare. There are lots of different style points in the delivery of data, much of which I think can again come back to the points Mark Bowden makes in his body language study. Excitement or aggression over data, in health we can have it all, sometimes worryingly. Is it all about the original evolution, showing the vulnerable part of the body with those open hands to ‘prove’ that you have nothing to hide. That would be an ambition of our eHealth Ireland programme, to facilitate a new openness with data and digital connectivity.

It has been discussed in Ireland recently that patient retains after a consult is less than 10% of what is said to them in a consultation, with this in mind solutions like a patient portal could not only open up data but also make data more accessible and impact on how care is delivered.

Ireland’s eHealth Revolution- developing a culture of innovation within the Irish healthcare system

Early prototypes of patient portals have been pulled together in areas as diverse as epilepsy, haemophilia and a patient view referrals and demographic information, early sight and the ability to pass your views on these solutions will be possible at the innovation showcase at the Trinity Science Gallery on the 22nd and 23rd of November, book your sessions for this at www.eh2030.com

Disruption and innovation in the Irish health system, by Richard Corbridge


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