Artificial intelligence (AI) has disrupted numerous industries in recent years, but for the technology to work effectively, the technology needs to be used right.  
 
For the healthcare sector, one of the end goals is to provide better patient outcomes, minimise human errors and alleviate some of the physical and mental burnout felt by healthcare practitioners as a result of the volume of admin work required. 
 
A study in the US found that for every hour that physicians spend providing direct clinical facetime to patients, almost two additional hours are spent on desk work. By utilising AI and analytics, this can be reduced, and by extension, so too will the rates of mental illness. 
 
For this to happen, however, the industry must first get ready for the AI era by building up skills in reading, working with, analysing and arguing with data – also known as data literacy. 
 
Data is the lifeblood of AI; which is what makes AI and analytics the ideal combination. Doctors are constantly receiving data from their patients, often pertaining to the symptoms of an illness or injury and how it can be treated. Healthcare professionals must develop their skills so as to confidently interpret this data and accurately input it into the system to fuel AI.
 
Recent research by Qlik found that only 12 per cent of Australia’s healthcare professionals are data literate, behind the global average of 15 per cent. But, it is important to note that Australia has not been given an opportunity to skill up appropriately. 
 
In my time in the healthcare industry, I found that staff learn best when they are given a flexible learning environment to develop their skills in their own time and in a way that does not add to the pressure they are already under. 
 
This is why Qlik offers online learning via Qlik Continuous Classroom, where people can login and undertake modules that suit their learning needs at a time that is convenient for them. 
 
And for the more junior professionals entering the industry, these types of educational undertakings should be included as part of their structured learning to build the next generation of leaders that are data literate from the start.
 
Embedding data analytics and AI within the healthcare industry is not as easy as just rolling out a software installation; it requires an entire strategy and cultural transformation. The new technology must be ingrained in the ways that doctors and physicians work. 
 
In addition to embedding analytics into the workflow, performance KPIs should be put in place to ensure that employees are working towards improving their data literacy and in turn, using it for data-based decision making. 
 
It’s also vital that the adoption of analytics is not just restricted to one level i.e. just surgeons, but is embraced by all levels, including admin staff, nurses, GPs, etc. It is the responsibility of the organisation as a whole to drive best practice procedures and provide feedback to ensure that everyone is getting the most out of the analytics platform. 
 
This can be done by continuously engaging users in conversation about their data and results, and presenting the results to their peers. 
 
MercyAscot in New Zealand has done this extremely well – using the Qlik platform to act on patient feedback quickly and making changes that cover all aspects of the hospital. 
 
The organisation recognised the need to more effectively leverage the significant volume of data collated over the years to improve the delivery of services to its patients. Rather than rely on static reports which were often time-delayed, MercyAscot created a system that allows staff to act more quickly on patient feedback to make quality improvements. 
 
In addition, connecting to multiple data sources and systems to see how various departments link together was paramount for it to drive optimum efficiencies holistically.
 
MercyAscot’s staff are now interested in the data and openly discuss the numbers and improvements that it can make with using this data. 
 
“As an organisation, we were data rich, but information poor. We struggled to process our data fast enough to use it effectively across our business functions and knew this had to change,” MercyAscot Director of Medical Services Dr Lloyd McCann said previously. 
 
But it’s not just healthcare professionals that are skilling up to make the most of AI and analytics. The recently launched Data Literacy Project features organisations’ and industry professionals’ real-life stories of how analytics has made an impact on their day-to-day work. 
 
As part of this, an online tool was developed to allow organisations to discover their own Corporate Data Literacy score, against which companies can benchmark themselves. I encourage the healthcare industry to see where they stand on this scale and map out their future data literacy path based on individual scores. 
 
I hope to soon see a future where the healthcare sector is able to ensure that employees can make full use of the benefits of AI correctly and efficiently.  
 
 
Charlie Farah is the Healthcare and Public Sector Director at Qlik APAC. 
 

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