Why storytelling enhances the power of data

Data continues to play an increasingly outsized role in healthcare. From tracking patient vitals and electronic health records to monitoring costs, data has changed the way doctors and operators provide care.

However, data alone can’t bring in new partnerships and build a successful healthcare operator. There has to be a story behind the data to help get new models of care off the ground, according to partners with PwC, who spoke at ACHE's Congress on Healthcare Leadership conference in Chicago.

This is true when it comes to clinical care. Providing the best healthcare should, theoretically, make people better. But there is more to the story. In fact, clinical care’s impact on a person's mortality may only be about 20 percent, with the other 80 percent influenced by social determinants of health, according to Kulleni Gebreyes, principal and clinical transformation leader at PwC.

This may help explain why, despite being one of the highest annual spenders on healthcare around the world, the U.S. system doesn’t fare much better than other developed nations. Other countries that spend more on social services can have a greater impact on overall health, Gebreyes said.

Therefore, for most healthcare providers, “it’s not enough to be clinically excellent,” said Andrea Johnson, partner and Tokyo experience center leader at PwC. Instead, providers need to be thinking about telling a greater story about patients and overall health.

To do so, providers need to ensure they make a business case for their care models that support total health, then ensure they have appropriate interventions, drive measurements of outcomes and come up with effective storytelling.

Starting off with the business case isn’t easy, though, as it entails thinking about factors that are both hard to measure and in the future.

“The business case (in many circumstances) is so simple––you make an investment, get a return, or ROI,” Paul D’Alessandro, principal and bodylogical analytics and healthcare innovation incubator lead at PwC, said. “This is not simple… you have to think about future health.”

Rather than ROI, providers can think about patient outcomes, according to Johnson. ROI can be impactful and more valuable as data in the greater story when outcomes are attached. 

“You can have the best data, but if no one believes it, (what’s it worth)?” she said.

Models that focus on overall health and include addressing specific social determinants of health, such as transportation or food delivery, are more likely to be successful with partners if the stories of the outcomes and data are told effectively.

“You can quantify all this, you can make a business case, but you’ve got to be able to tell a story,” D’Alessandro said.