Why we need a new way of looking at data

COVID-19 has shown us how much more we can achieve by working together across organisations. As we reset following the first wave of the pandemic there is a shared commitment that we don’t return to the way things were but embed the successful innovations and collaborative approaches that have emerged.

Before the pandemic, did you ever sit in meetings with system partners debating the differences in your performance figures rather than the bigger system issues? One thing COVID-19 has taught us is to move beyond these organisational ‘silos of data’ to bring together information from multiple sources and partners to arrive at a ‘single version of the truth’, We can then spend more time productively turning shared data into insight that solves the real population challenges.

Why we need a new way of looking at data

Currently, much of the information provided to systems is data analytical reports with data-only narrative, without any business interpretation of the data. The single version of the truth and joint consensus on numbers between system partners is limited, leading to inefficiencies in understanding the system position and decision-making. With no single interpretation of what’s going on, differing views and opinions on the interpretation lead to a lack of trust in the outcomes.

We need to move from this current single organisation-based data reporting process, so we can share more intelligence and interpretation across the system about what the data actually means and what could be done about it.

To deliver this collaborative vision we need to start at the business level with more informed discussions across all system partners. System partners must come together with the operational insight and knowledge to understand what the data means now and in the future. We call this systems goal-based re-assurance.

So what is systems goal-based re-assurance?

SCW has pioneered systems goal-based re-assurance. It’s an approach that provides more focused information – the what and the why - so that all parties are better informed on the system pressure points to inform better, more timely decisions. All partners can then take part in informed discussions with a more comprehensive view of the situation as it is happening, and what the future trend is likely to be, based upon a single interpretation.

How does system goal-based re-assurance work?

The more investigative aspect of system goal-based re-assurance, or digging into the data, champions the move from the basic data or old-fashioned reports (analytical and informative) to effective and practical new briefing notes (interpretative). This stepping up a gear connects analytical data with operational knowledge and insight; adding the ‘why’ to the ‘what’ which can feed directly into key strategic decision-making meetings based on cross-system evidence.

The new role of data journalist

Fundamental to the system goal-based re-assurance approach is the concept of data journalism. This is the process of telling richer stories by combining local operational context with interpretation and inference of complex data, to generate greater meaning and understanding to create a system ‘story’.

Much like a standard journalist, the data journalist has a natural curiosity to dig deep to find the real story, investigating both the ‘what’ and ‘why’ to identify the problem behind the problem. Key to the role is the ability to bridge the gap between data and analysis, and operational intelligence and insight, to produce the narrative that highlights and triangulates the important key facts and relevant information to the audience. It’s about using a forensic investigative approach to locate outliers and identifying trends that are not just statistically significant, but relevant to the business. Data journalists understand that data can be the source of a story or it can be the vehicle through which the story is told - or both.

How does system goal-based re-assurance support the move to system-by-default?

With the improved ability to understand the ‘what’ and ‘why’ provided by the goal-based re-assurance approach, system partners make better and more rapid decisions. A key aspect of the method is that it uses a threshold approach to early warning metrics so that only where a measure is outside the threshold is it reported. Focusing only on exceptions means improved and more timely decision-making and using the crowdsourced single version of the truth means everyone in the system sees the wood from the trees in the data. Another benefit is the ability to proactively track and monitor system patient and financial challenges and to identify why something is happening through connecting the analytical data findings with operational knowledge and insight to keep ahead of the game. Taking the next step in associating these operational impacts with predictive data analysis means more informed and more timely decision-making … and who wouldn’t want that?


Resetting the health and care business needs more collaborative working to focus on where the pressure points are. Understanding what is happening and why and collectively agreeing one ask from one agreed source of information enables intelligence to be provided so that system partners are better informed and can make the right decisions at the right time to deliver on their new collaboration.


Customer Development Solutions Director

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