Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Symphony of Information

Have you ever heard a 9th grade band on their first few days of rehearsal? I lived it – well a much heavier, awkward, glasses wearing, hair out of control, version of myself. The interesting thing about 9th grade band is everyone has had their instruments for a while so most can make a noise that resembles music, but “musicality” is really lacking. What they teach you in that critical year is how to be “Symphonic” which means taking something that is very complex and diverse and pull it together harmoniously. For a percussionist (like myself) that means - just because you can play the loudest doesn’t mean you should and that following the conductor is not an optional activity.

As I was reviewing data this week (reams and reams of data) I began to notice a series of new patterns. Patterns, within themselves, are fascinating but they get interesting when variations occur. So in musical terms if you have 4 measures of quarter notes and then a measure of 8th notes and then a measure of 16th notes the original pattern varied to a pattern that builds intensity. Intensity builds excitement and excitement builds to the climax of the song. As geeky as this may sound the workflow data we review is often like a musical score to me – sometimes just out of sync.

I don’t know about you but when my mind gets stuck on patterns I have a hard time breaking free. My solution has always been to get in my car and turn the radio up to blaring sound to let my mind focus on the patterns in the music. After a few minutes identifying them, and figuring out the layering it is easier to refocus on something new.  This week was especially overwhelming as we discovered patterns outside of alarms that affect our data points AND that the information is readily available.

That’s when it hit me – the problem with the patterns that I was seeing for this particular hospitals report were that they are simply out of sync with the other dimensions of the unit. (Clear as Mud?) Think of it like a musical score – if the woodwinds are playing 3 measures behind the brass who is playing two measures ahead of the percussion it sounds like noise. However, if the conductor is able to see how the patterns line up and is able to pull everyone into sync then it’s an amazing symphony.

Music at it's base is a complex math equation - music at it's core is art and soul.  The key to making beautiful music is to be able to define where the math ends and the soul begins.  The same is true in clinical workflow design the numbers may speak the "truth" but the answer may lie in the "soul" of the work.  That's what we do - we help the hospital define the math so that the clinicians can better create the soul.

I know this is two months in a row of shameless plugs but we are creating a new dashboard that is unlike anything in the market today.  We have welcomed several new team members in to help us mold the product into something that can quickly help a hospital reduce falls, increase patient satisfaction, and increase safety. 

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Kourtney Govro