How to Write a Data Story with Healthcare Analytics

One of the hottest topics in our industry today is healthcare analytics. We just can’t seem to get enough data! While a lot of blogs focus on how to improve data quality and access, I’d like to dedicate this blog to another key issue… what to do with your healthcare data once you get it.

Data on its own doesn’t hold much value. It’s just numbers. Which can be confusing, overwhelming or worse, meaningless, if they’re not packaged into a compelling story. One that engages executive leaders and proves your physician liaison team’s value.

So, how do you craft a persuasive data story using healthcare analytics? Let’s get some advice from Nancy Duarte, a bestselling author and persuasion expert who’s “cracked the code for effectively incorporating story patterns into business communications”.

Data + Intuition = Strategy

In her 2019 HMPS Summit keynote presentation, she explained that: “Great leaders lead from their intuition. So, data alone does not motivate them. Data plus intuition is what equals strategic decisions.”

This derives the question… how do you get your healthcare analytics data to drive your C-Suite’s intuition?

Create a Data POV

As we all know, data is cold, factual and objective. Whereas, stories are emotional, warm and compelling. So, if you wrap your data in a meaningful story, you’ll give it a point of view (POV) that can:

  • Elicit action
  • Improve recall

The easiest way to do this is with bar, pie or line charts. They keep your data easy to scan and simple to understand.

Tip: Find a healthcare business intelligence tool that automatically filters and presents data into visually compelling charts and graphs. Check out our analytics dashboards.

An interesting fact about stories is that they’re one of the few things that engage every section of the brain simultaneously. Also, when stories are told, both the teller and listener have their brains firing in the same direction, at the same time. That’s why stories—and in our case, data stories—are so engaging!

Crafting a Story with Healthcare Analytics

As with any good story, yours should have a clear beginning, middle and end:

  1. Explore. Your beginning should explore the problem or opportunity that your data presents. Be concise to keep the listener’s attention and assign a tactical contributor to evoke action.
  2. Explain. The middle should explain your conflict—the obstacles that make solving your problem or capitalizing on your opportunity difficult.
  3. Influence. The end should convey what sacrifices (time, money, resources, etc.) are needed for a solid resolution—your story’s happy ending!

Tip: The best way to influence executives is to “communicate up”. Senior leaders are doers. So, speak their language by repeating a key action verb across your story.

For example, let’s use the action verb “raise”. When you’re talking about money, you’d say: “Raise health system revenue by growing the number of employed referrals.” Then, when you’re talking about competitive advantage, you’d say: “Raise market share by proactively identifying leakage or underutilized providers.” Make it clear what you want your leaders to do. Inspire them into action.

Slide decks are fantastic vehicles for telling healthcare data stories because they’re skimmable and packed full of information. You can apply the “Explore, Explain, Influence” outline above by:

  • Starting with an intro page featuring a captivating image that tells your story
  • Followed by your 3-part narrative with a beginning, middle & end
  • And driven by your action verb, woven across the entire presentation
Paint a Mental Picture

A final tip Duarte has for motivating leaders into action is to get creative with your data:

  • Connect data to relatable measurements—this gives data context and makes it more impressive
  • Humanize your data—identify who’s the hero in the numbers (physician liaisons or providers, for example) and who’s the adversary, someone who creates roadblocks (gatekeepers, competing health systems, etc.)
  • Provide a surprising twist—use an element of time or offer more context

Sound data is best packaged as a scene in the mind. Leaders need to see it, to understand it. And understand it, so they can act on it. This is how you move your healthcare analytics data from meaning to making.

Best of luck on writing your data story!

Date: July 18 2019
Subject: Healthcare Analytics
About the Author
Carrie Bennett
Carrie Bennett

Strategic Advisor
(Former COO)