‘Hospitals don’t need big data analytics…. do they?!’

Date:  29 November 2023

“Do not sell us big data analytics”, a director of a global company said to me years ago, while I was selling data analytics solutions. “Sell traffic lights instead” he continued.

That is when I realized I had been selling technology for technology’s sake and at the same time preventing customers from actually understanding how data analytics could help them.

While terms such as big data and artificial intelligence are hot topics in health care, it is easy to lose sight of why we are talking about them in the first place. It is not uncommon for organizations to decide that they want to “utilize machine learning” or “start using big data” in their operations. Motivations vary but a common driver is that everyone is talking about it and probably doing it, hence we must follow.

With me-too attitudes among buyers and suppliers one easily forgets that all these fancy terms are simply a means to an end, the end being operational value in many forms. With data analytics, value is created through understanding the big picture of operations, moving from reactive to proactive actions, doing things more efficiently, and identifying bottle-necks. All these benefits are possible, but only when you know what you are doing. After all, big data is no panacea.

Arguably the most pragmatic way to utilize big data and analytics is by asking yourself:

“which questions do we need to answer in order to become better?”

Big data and analytics can support you in finding the answers, but they may not be the best option for defining the questions.

Going back to traffic lights, what was the director talking about? He simply wanted to underline their use to meet a need: to know what is going on and how well they are doing. Further questions would be: what are the causes for the current situation and what are the consequent action points? First, find the questions relevant to your organization and only then can you start utilizing big data and analytics successfully.

Guest writer

A blog from a member of the Harnessing Big Data SIG.


Wellbeing services county of Pirkanmaa, Finland

Emil Ackerman

Chief Data Officer

I lead the development and implementation of knowledge management and data utilization strategy for the biggest wellbeing services county in Finland, with approximately 20,000 employees.

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