Crucial Skills to Find Meaning in Your Data

Let’s start with the purpose of decision support which is expressed in the equation:


The ultimate purpose of decision support is “…to help human beings store, retrieve, discover, and process information….[Furthermore,]…the fundamental challenges in informatics result from the difficulties of automating the processing of meaning using tools that actually process data.¹ Overcoming these challenges requires not one but a trio of skills.

  • Technical construction
  • Contextual understanding
  • Comprehension of the significance

Technical Construction

Technical construction is all about manipulating the data.  It’s the easiest skill category to find (or teach). It’s also the skill group most commonly understood and most likely to be transferable across industries. This category includes:

  • Building stored procedures, macros, OLAP cubes, and queries
  • Familiarity with reporting software packages
  • Interfacing data
  • SQL scripting
  • Database experience

Contextual Understanding

Contextual understanding is the first part to establishing the “meaning” of the data. A working knowledge of hospital processes, policies, rules, algorithms, roles and regulations provides the basis for putting the data into a meaningful context. This is difficult to teach because of the complexity of the healthcare organization so it takes experience (and time) to acquire these skills.

Comprehension of the Significance

Comprehension of the significance of the resulting information is the third and final layer. This is where questions such as “Does this make sense?”, “What is important?”, and “Is the information conveyed clearly and effectively?” get posed and answered. This is also where skills such as data visualization and benchmarking are employed for optimum impact.

The aggregation of these three skills groups is essential for effective decision support. Finding the right talent is difficult and out of the reach of many hospitals. Harder still is maintaining the skills once you are able to acquire them. The competition is stiff and talent frequently gets lured away.

Yet, isn’t effective decision support vital to the success of your organization? If so, it’s worth acquiring the right expertise. It may take a little time to find the right people. You may pay a little more to hire the experience you need. But it will ultimately pay off by providing MEANING to your DATA.

Of course, Polaris Strategic Solutions has the full set of decision support skills and our unique service operates as an extension of your staff. You are in control of your vital information…without the frustration of finding and maintaining the right talent. Contact us at for an overview and demo. Or talk to one of our customers about the difference this expertise has made for them.

¹What is biomedical informatics? by Elmer V. Bernstam, MD, MSE, Jack W. Smith, MD, PhD, and Todd R. Johnson, PhD, February 2011, a peer reviewed manuscript on the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine PMCID: PMC2814957, NIHMSID: NIHMS139040

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