Down with dashboards! Viva la data revolución!

July 12, 2017 / By Jeremy Zasowski

If your organization is like most, you’re well stocked with dashboards that show your organization’s latest performance metrics. Which numbers are up (DNFB and LOS—Boo!), which numbers are down (CDI query response rates—just answer the d@%# questions!) and which numbers are holding steady (ED-to-admit and readmission rates—well, at least we’re consistent).

Dashboards are nice if you’re driving a car, and you want to know how fast you’re going (obey the speed limit!) or how much gas you have left (there’s always another couple of gallons left after you hit “E” right?). 

However, when you’re running a complex healthcare organization, your dashboards look less like this:





And more like this:

And this is probably just for your inpatient hospital. Now, add in your ambulatory and physician office networks, outpatient clinics and post-acute care system. Dozens, if not hundreds of data points streaming in and your organization ends up spending  hours trying to connect all those points together into a meaningful picture in order to try to understand what exactly is going on, where the problems are, and what should be done to fix those problems.  It turns into a giant game of whack-a-mole.  And I’m guessing a lot of the time, you end up feeling like the moles are winning.

Here’s the thing about dashboards: they’re good tools to address simple, single-point areas of focus. If you’re driving a car, and the things you need to worry about are staying between the lines (keep those hands at 10 and 2!) and your speed, then a dashboard that tells you how fast your car is traveling is great. But when you’re trying to manage complex systems with a multitude of focus areas, all of which have complex cause-and-effect relationships with each other, then a dashboard is going to be insufficient. You end up monitoring a ton of metrics and trying to piece them all together to understand which one is causing the other numbers to go up or down. Or you have to request a report from your data analyst team which shows up in PDF form a day or two later, and all that gives you is more data points. Someone still has to connect the dots!

What we need is a data revolution. We need systems that can take in all of the data that feeds those dashboards and automatically connects the dots, and does all the conceivable drill downs that your data analyst team would do to get to the root causes behind your organization’s issues. Then, based on all of that, can deliver actionable insights on your biggest issues so that you can spend your time addressing your organization’s challenges at their roots, instead of monitoring all those dials on the dashboard.

Jeremy Zasowswki is Innovation Manager, 3M Data Informatics for 3M Health Information Systems.