With the launch of the Population Health Data and Analytics Centre of Excellence (PHDA CoE), AnalystX* has created the first comprehensive curriculum for health and care data professionals and analysts in this area. Sophie Hodges, Lead Client Service Manager at the Health Economics Unit, and Victoria Cornelius, Head of PHDA CoE and the Senior Lead for Analytics Engagement at NHS England, explains how this centre is a huge step in the professionalisation and recognition of population health management data analysts and consumers.
Ben Goldacre’s recent independent report, Better, broader, safer: using health data for research and analysis, for the Department of Health and Social Care exposes a gap between our ambitions and where we are in population health management (PHM). Key elements highlighted within that gap include the professionalisation of PHM data analytics and recognition of the importance of the analysts’ work, allowing managers to make better decisions.
This gap can be closed by more focused training and support for data analysts working within PHM. Not only do the data analysts need a rewarding job and career path, but consumers of their work need to be trained in how to understand the work they produce, and how to ask the right questions to gain the most useful information.
Not only is PHM a key area of data analytics, but it is also a crucial element of collaboration and integrated working across integrated care systems (ICSs) and it will become ever more important.
About the new centre of excellence
The PHDA CoE has been developed by AnalystX working in close partnership with the Health Economics Unit and MonstarLab. We have collaborated with AphA, local analytical teams and across the healthcare data industry, to help us build pathways for training and identify existing resources and best practices. Our goal is to fill in the gap in the training space in the PHM specialism of data analytics.
We aim to upskill analysts and improve every interaction with data in the PHM cycle. We’ve developed a curriculum to help guide people in the training that is relevant to them at each point in their career.
This includes supporting system leaders (consumers) to understand how to use intelligence and insights to make better decisions, and supporting people in the roles of creator (a person who creates complex analytical assets), editor (a person who quality checks the data and can suggest improvements), storyteller (who translates the data into usable assets) and wranglers (who manage the data and tool platform).
Each of these specific roles require specialist skills, and the people in them may wish to remain in their particular area or take a step across to another role. Our curriculum shows them what training will be most appropriate for them and how they can access it. The learning pathways we’ve developed support both steps forward and steps sideways.
A collaborative development
The AnalystX community brings together people working in all areas of data and analytics. To develop the CoE curriculum we drew on the knowledge of expert national bodies, such as the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities and AphA, as well as local analytic leads.
Members of AnalystX, from the NHS, local authorities, charities and so on that have an interest in healthcare analytics, can access the CoE. In addition to the curriculum and signposting to training, we will also be running interactive events and webinars to bring all kinds of data analysts together who focus on PHM.
Building a better understanding
Data analytics has been blighted by a lack of understanding in the past – with data analysts frustrated by a lack of understanding in their consumers, and consumers frustrated to not receive the information they require or can understand.
Our training pathways are designed to support both of these areas – by giving consumers the tools they need to know what questions they need to ask, and allowing analysts to provide intelligence in a way that makes sense to them. By clarifying what is being asked and why, decision makers will have the tools they need to make the best changes.
The CoE training hub is designed to offer continuous development by showcasing what training is available for each level within a career path, whether remaining in a certain remit or stepping across to another specialism.
The difference we can make together
By professionalising the dedicated data analytical and scientific community in the NHS with consistent, continuing professional development and clear career paths, we can improve the ways we benefit from the data collected.
By ensuring our analysts have standardised and recognised skills, we can support the decision-makers – or consumers – to use the new knowledge created to change and improve care and outcomes for patients and service users.
In this way, we can bridge the ‘Goldacre Gap’ between ambition and reality: by professionalising the PHM data analytics roles and recognising their value.
The new CoE will help the NHS to use, nurture and grow the resources and skills that exist, invest in the people and tools that are proven and set standards and expectations that allow all patients and service users to benefit from the service improvements driven by new understanding generated by analytics.
In a nutshell, PHM data analytics needs to become more business as usual, recognised for the value it adds.
* AnalystX is the largest community of data professionals and analysts in health and care globally and has in excess of 17,000 members. One of its senior sponsors is NHS England but it is a collaborative of over 50 organisations listed here.