“You cannot manage what you cannot measure.”
Much as this statement by Peter Druker is true, I will extend this by stating that you cannot measure what you cannot capture accurately. Last year my company, The Analytics Professionals (www.gotapglobal.com), consulted for a Ghanaian-based insurance company. We spent close to 80% of our time cleaning the data. What was the reason? Poor data capture. We see this in all aspects of our economy including healthcare which is even more dangerous. This is the reason why digitization is important. It is a well-known fact that data is the digital oil for the 21st century, and Ghana cannot be left behind in this digital age referred to as industry 4.0. However, it must also be noted raw data is like unrefined crude – it’s of no use until it is analyzed. That is why the current digitization and digitalization effort being championed by the vice-president cannot be politicized. I will be taking my time to educate people about the big data value chain, but for today, I will restrict my short article to digitization.
Gartner’s IT Glossary describes digitization as the process of converting analogue data into digital format. Here the analogue system could be equated to the paper-based system in most of our institutions today. To illustrate with a practical example, one should look at the medical records division of any of our health facilities. All you will find are shelves full of files or charts of hand-written doctor notes. My check at the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) indicates that as of 2019 only 20 percent of claims are filed electronically. This means that the remaining 80 percent are filed manually, which could be a potential target for digitization. I need to, however, state that it is the information that is being digitized, not the process. The latter refers to digitalization which I will talk about in my subsequent blogs.
As noted earlier, big data is revolutionizing our world today, but one cannot think of big data utilization without digitization. Indeed, a study by Mohammed and Weber (2020) revealed that digitization contributes to big data. Thus, the first benefit Ghana stands to gain from the current digitization projects is the development of our big data ecosystem. I will talk about big data later, but I would like to reiterate that we cannot develop by doing things the same way. Organizations that implement data-driven decisions are more efficient and have a competitive edge. Also, the World Economic Forum asserts that a 10 percent growth in digitization translates to a 0.76 percent GDP growth. Think about it! In my professional experience, I have seen organizations that have experienced huge growth through digitization. However, I would like to illustrate the importance of digitization to Ghana by sharing a personal story.
My senior brother, Daniel, passed away on February 8th of this year after a three-week battle with a hemorrhagic stroke. We paid almost 210,000 GHC (approximately $35,000), but we still couldn’t save him. Before his death, I was at a public forum where the Minister of Health spoke about his ministry’s progress in the health sector. I recall asking him about the process that the government is taking to have an anonymized healthcare database that could be subjected to advanced analytics as a means of completing the clinical intervention. I asked this question against the backdrop that I personally knew five young (below 50 years) Ghanaians who had passed away from cerebrovascular disease in 2019. Again, my motivation for asking that question was that I am a Senior Life Underwriting consultant specializing in mortality assessment for life insurance companies. Besides, I am also a doctoral student with an emphasis on analytics. My original dissertation was to leverage electronic health records (EHRs) to assess stroke mortality among middle-aged African American males. Thus, I do know firsthand the impact of digital health records in improving healthcare. Now, one can ask, and rightly so – how could digitization improve healthcare delivery, for that matter, save Daniel’s life.
As noted earlier, only about a quarter of health insurance claims are submitted electronically; thus, it will be difficult to apply any advanced analytics on claims data for healthcare improvement. However, Digital or electronic health records can reduce medical errors, provide more knowledge to healthcare providers, help identify sections of the population at most risk for certain conditions, and generally help avoid potentially preventable events (PPEs) such as strokes, hospitalizations, emergency room visits, etc. Thus, having a digital health records system in Ghana, for instance, could identify regions most notable for early deaths from strokes. In addition, this will provide ammunition to health educators to provide targeted educational intervention for the affected populations. So in circling back to my opening statement, we cannot manage our healthcare outcomes better if we cannot measure the progress, and I believe that digitization is the way to go. This can be accomplished by converting the existing charts into digital format. After all, man has been able to digitize VHS videos and LP music, we can digitize our health records and glean insights from them to serve our citizens better..
About the Author
Eugene Frimpong is a data analytics expert with 17 years of progressive and challenging experience in the US Financial Services industry. He is also a co-founder and CEO of The Analytics Professionals, a big data analytics company based in Ghana with offices in the US. He has championed predictive analytics in product development, mortality risk stratification, customer-centricity, and underwriting. He has worked for four Fortune 500 companies. He is at the dissertation phase of a doctoral degree which is on Ghana’s readiness for big data analytics.
Email Address: Eugene.email@example.com