Data ‘sanity’: reducing variation
The key skill for everyday work is the ability to 'think' statistically, which means responding to 'variation' appropriately in order to ask better questions. The statistics needed for quality improvement are based in the context of process. Processes are sequences of tasks aimed at accomplishing a particular outcome by manipulating inputs to produce a particular type of output. The use of data is really made up of four processes - measurement, collection, analysis, and interpretation - each having people, methods, machines, materials, measurements and environment as inputs. Any process produces outputs that are potentially measurable. The stigma resulting from past- statistics courses often presents a formidable cultural barrier to the much needed simple, efficient data collection and analysis methods which are key to improving existing healthcare processes in real time. Proper implementation of statistical thinking has implications for and far beyond clinical outcomes.