What Data Isn’t. It’s not hope. It’s not getting better or worse.

Data is not health and wellbeing. It’s not getting better or worse.  It’s not hope. It’s not trust. It’s not kindness.  It’s not community. It’s not peace. It’s not ……

Data is at least once removed. It’s an adjective or an adverb. Health is a noun or a verb. Data informs health. It describes it: some aspect of health getting better or worse, changing over time.  People change over time. Always. The best data tells us if that ever-changing is OK or not OK. Data at it’s best has value because it reflects or motivates action. Action to improve health and wellbeing of and reduce cost to individuals and populations. Action to improve life flow of persons at the center of care and work flow for people who work in health care agencies. (The Triple Aim) Wouldn’t it be nice if we spend twice as much of our combined health care time and dollars on action to improve as we spend on data?!

Fitting data into life’s flow- a vexing dilemma

This third in a series about health care data thinks about how data fits into the life flow of people. We collect data because we want to, need to, or are forced to. People observe their own health journey (life) and remember stuff: How I feel, how much I weigh, how much I eat, how far I go, how much pain I’m in, when I have to be somewhere, what it takes to get there, how much I spent or owe…. We may write it on a piece of paper, on a list, on a form or type it into something, or a machine captures, stores it and may display it or print it out.

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What is Health Data? An Introduction for Anyone

I took a week off.  I unplugged to attend the memorial service for my mom. Thanks to readers who inquired about my absence, worried if I was OK.  I’m OK.

This is the second in a series of posts about Health Data, Health Information, and Health Wisdom. The first in the series can be found here. This is my 170th post. I starting in July 2012. I have over 2 thousand readers reading this blog as subscribers and in Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn from many walks of life and experiences with health care. Many wear more than one hat. Most are patients, some are family and friend caregivers, some are professionals and caregivers by trade, and some work in health technology. This series of posts is geared to everyone. I delight in trying to write for everyone. Considering health literacy while writing helps me organize and clarify my thoughts.  I welcome comments and suggestions. Please send them to me at danny@health-hats.com or @healthhats.

Health data takes a pulse, tells a story, reviews a life, describes a group of people, and links cost to that health journey.

The pulse, represents the natural, and un-natural, changes a body experiences  – higher blood pressure, lower blood pressure; more weight, less weight; happier, sadder; steadier, shakier, pain, fear, anxiety, relief, feeling respected or alone – on and on. Some pulses are felt, seen, heard, sensed, smelled, timed, and some are electronic (lab tests, x-rays, apps etc.).  The most common form of pulse data is the list, a continual pulse over time: medications taken or not taken, minutes or hours of activity, wounds cared for, mood changes… The list can be in your memory, on scraps of paper, in a spreadsheet, on an app, in an Electronic or Personal Health Record, anywhere. People in your team, including you, take different pulses. Most different is that yours are often felt from the inside out, while everyone else’s is from the outside in. This inside/out business is really important. You are the only one who takes pulses from the inside. You are the only one who experiences what you experience. However, it’s all data about the same thing – you.

A magic lever to best health – data and information

I work in a human services agency.  We support individuals with disabilities. We help people achieve their hopes and dreams in their communities. One of our strategic activities is to increase the information available to the persons we support, staff who support them, management who  supervise staff, and our funders. The information helps us all keep a pulse on how well we’re doing and improving and alerts us to areas of risk to individuals we support, staff, and the community. Providing meaningful information that can be acted upon has its challenges.  Meaningful information comes from trustworthy data that represents real life work and wellness. We subscribe to the Triple Aim of improving individual well-being and experience; improving the health of the community; and improving the value of the support and care systems we provide and use .
We find ourselves either drowning in data that doesn’t inform us nearly as well as we’d like or lacking information about areas that seem critically important. Imagine being in an ocean of data and not being able breathe. No learning, no wisdom, just soaking wet. We think that people are dying too young, that they could be healthier, happier, and more fulfilled in the community.  We think that support could be better coordinated and that people could be more drivers of their own health journey. We think that we spend too much money on expensive care and that we are often penny wise and pound foolish. How do we know? When will we know it’s getting better?
This begins a series of posts about our challenges with data, information, insight, and action. Possibly a drier topic than some of my recent posts, but it’s my idea of fun – it’s a magic lever to best health.

Mistakes – Finding your Groove Again

We make lots of mistakes improvising while playing music in my jazz combo – wrong notes, lose our place, no feel for the rhythm. No mistakes never happens. The music is good when the group communicates, recovers and finds the groove again. There is never no mistakes on the health journey.  Mistakes range from missed doses, added pounds, underwhelming exercise, and falls to unhappiness, crabbiness, and misjudged  function. Something hopeful doesn’t work, something makes you sicker.  It’s the human condition – mistakes. Expecting no mistakes is unreasonable. (I’m not talking about never events – wrong sided surgery, neglect, hubris, disrespect). Health can improve when mistakes are recognized and communicated. Lessons can be learned, something else tried.  We find the groove again.