Why data is more than just numbers on a screen

I have a background in mathematical sciences and it was during a placement with NHS England that I realised I could help to make a difference in healthcare by doing something I enjoy. To me data isn’t just numbers on a screen, I understand what it means and I can see the impact of what I’m doing.

My first role at Dr Foster was in the National team as a support and insight executive. It involved helping customers who had technical issues, liaising with the tech teams to ensure solutions were found. I was in that role for a year and it helped me to get a real in-depth knowledge of our tools, products and services.

Now as one of three lead analysts, I make sure that customer projects are delivered. All lead analysts have their own areas that they specialise in and mine is projects relating to hospital providers including managing deliverables for the Getting it Right First Time (GIRFT) programme, where we have built provider level reports for breast surgery, cardiology and ophthalmology to name a few.

Asking the right questions to help trusts make change

Benchmarking is a big part of the work we do. It helps customers to see the areas where they are outliers. We can then interrogate the data further to find out why this might be and what action needs to be taken to bring about improved outcomes. Our work allows NHS trusts to ask the right questions and make changes where appropriate.

Sometimes our work validates what the customer already suspects is happening. They may have an idea of what is going on, but they need evidence to prove it to take action, because without that it’s just a hypothesis. They appreciate that we are impartial and don’t have an agenda.

Close customer support is key to success

We work really closely with customers to understand exactly what it is that they are interested in measuring. That’s what our team is really good at, it’s not just about our technical skills.

We have plenty of soft skills which helps us to scope out analysis with our customers. Although we tend to work remotely, we will support them by spending time in their organisations as well. It’s good to be able to do that face to face sometimes.

The future of data in healthcare

The richer and more robust data becomes, the more we will be able to do with it. We are often restricted by constraints of the data we have access to, but data is always improving and will open up a lot more opportunities in terms of what we can do in the future.