20 November 2015

It's just another way of looking at data

Friction. There's a friction in Flowopoly. It's an unsettling tension between—on the one hand—all the "faff" associated with putting on a Flowopoly Event (the tables, the boards, the labels, the cards, the easels, the whiteboards, the magnets, the red hotels, pretty much everything about it, in fact) and—on the other hand—this irksome sense I have that actually Flowopoly isn't something "special" at all. It isn't an "event". It isn't even a "gimmick". No. Flowopoly is actually just another way of looking at data.

So silent was the epiphany that I didn't even write it down properly in my notebook. My lightbulb moment was seemingly completely overshadowed by the observation that we didn't have any outpatient data.

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6 November 2015

Five shades of yellow, green, blue and pink

Flowopoly tries to make visible three aspects of patient flow, which we tend to categorise as: 1. How many? 2. How long? 3. How full? Using more specific terminology, How many? means attendances (or admissions), How long? means length of stay, and How full? means Fullness, or occupancy.

The Emergency Department at Harrogate District Hospital. (Names—and other details—of patients have been anonymised to protect confidentiality)

Flowopoly is about making things visible. Specifically, it's about making visible those things that aren't ordinarily visible. One way we do this is that we create a wide-angle panoramic view of the whole healthcare system, which is a view you don't normally get (the whole hospital in one eye-sweep). Another way we improve visibility is that we speed up time (a day in the life of a hospital can be replayed in 45 minutes) so that you can see successions of patient movements in a few minutes that ordinarily would entail sitting around for hours or even days to actually witness.

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2 November 2015


I've been preoccupied for some time with the idea that when it comes to getting data embedded into decision-making, it's not just a question of identifying the right data to look at, or even the right way to analyse that data; it's also about finding—or setting up—the right forums in which to discuss the data.

"Moving about room only" at an NHS Lothian Flowopoly event: 17 October 2014

Flow Data Symposium is an attempt at dealing with all of these things, but I want to focus here on the forum aspect. What we're doing with Flow Data Symposium is we're putting a lot of thought and attention into the business of creating a setting in which patient flow can be discussed meaningfully and fruitfully. In particular, we're trying to do three things.

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14 October 2015

Pie Chart Slices

I was at a Creative Edinburgh Talking Heads event last night. Pixels and Bricks, it was called. It was basically a Pecha Kucha Night for Creatives, and there were ten speakers, who each spoke for six minutes and 40 seconds (that's 20 slides with 20 seconds per slide, for those of you unfamiliar with the Pecha Kucha format).

Some of the talks were a blur of frenetic madcap zaniness; others were altogether more measured. But the highlight of my evening was when freelance photographer Ellie Morag displayed this pie chart on the screen:

Photograph lifted from @CreativeEdin's Twitter stream without permission

Look at the tiny size of the yellow segment. Read more >>>

13 October 2015

Information Contraflow

The old presentation skills course Stand and Deliver has now been revamped, re-branded and relaunched as Information Contraflow. It's a new one-day workshop that shows how to design and deliver data presentations that get people talking about numbers. The emphasis is on turning a data-rich presentation into a conversation in order to facilitate collaborative problem-solving. The workshop outline is here. And a blog-type article introducing the idea is here.

Two open courses of Information Contraflow are planned: Manchester on Tuesday 8th December and London on Wednesday 16th December.

4 October 2015

Anthropology and data science need each other

I stumbled across this brilliant article (Anthropology and data science need each other) while I was looking for something else. It was written two years ago by Schaun Wheeler (Here is his Twitter profile) and it is brimful of insight. For example, he wrote:

What I have always found compelling about anthropology is its emphasis on ethnography as a research method. "Ethnography" itself is a poorly-defined concept, but generally it entails non-fleeting participation, ideally immersion, in a particular environment to produce a description that is both recognizable to people familiar with that environment and intelligible to people unfamiliar with it.

I like the way this idea chimes with what Nick Tordoff and I have been saying in our Data Conversations workshop. Immersion is one of the four stages in the Clarify process, which is a key part of trying to understand the world of managers and clinicians so that data analysts can reflect back to them a meaningful description of that world using data.

1 October 2015

Flowopoly: the SECC Intro

Flowopoly has taken up quite a lot of my time and energy over the the last 18 months, and I'm only just now beginning to document what's been happening with it. So here's a start. When we showcased Flowopoly at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow last June, I scripted an intro for the lunchtime sessions, and I thought it might be useful to post that script for the benefit of those people trying to get an idea of what Flowopoly is about.