Explaining the Value of Data Sharing: Lessons Learned

Health leaders, including those in public health, are increasingly engaging and mobilizing community partners from multiple sectors to share and use data to address social determinants and improve population health. Building meaningful relationships with other sectors requires engagement and determination of common values that clearly map to the potential benefits of collaboration and data sharing. This is no easy task, as different entities engaged in data sharing projects, particularly those from other sectors, may have quite varied capacity aims, business models, and desired outcomes.

In August, two national initiatives—the Community Health Peer Learning (CHP) Program and Data Across Sectors for Health (DASH)—came together to launch All In: Data for Community Health, a network of networks dedicated to building a data movement that improves community capacity to address the social determinants of health. In preparation for All In’s presentation at the 2016 Practical Playbook National Meeting, we surveyed our cohort of 25 data sharing collaborations.

The first two blogs in this series discussed lessons learned from this survey, and our final post of the series shares further insights based on communities’ experience for the field on explaining the value of sharing data to different sectors.

Several key themes emerged from our work with these local collaborations:

1. Use evidence and storytelling

Evidence is always more compelling when combined with anecdote, which is why many communities have used human interest stories and real examples to communicate the value of data sharing.

“Using impact stories to share potential benefits,” and “vertically aligning missions that can accomplish everyone’s goals together so that everyone’s administrative burdens are relieved, resources are saved, and real-time data can be shared.”

-Chicago Department of Public Health DASH)

“We usually try to provide specific examples of how data sharing may benefit all who shared their data.”

-NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

2. Community and patient engagement is critical

It is rapidly becoming best practice to engage patient and other perspectives early and often in health improvement initiatives. Such efforts can be critical in making the case for and communicating the value of data sharing. Many in our cohort found that they were able to successfully explain the value of partnering to share data when discussing improved health care outcomes for patients, specifically through the frame of better care coordination.

“We have found that the best way to communicate about data sharing across sectors is to show people the product. Show them a beautifully designed data display that enables them to answer critical questions; and they will understand the value.”

-Providence Center for Outcomes Research and Education (CHP)

“We sought to identify how the electronic shared plan of care would fill an expressed need for each project partner. Providers wanted the care plans to be accessible to families, families wanted the care plan to be accessible by them when they need it – not just when printed out by the provider; and social workers wanted more access to see the care plan and be kept in the loop.”

-University of Vermont (CHP)

3. Reducing costs of care is a powerful driver

We often hear about the financial impact of health care—particularly that the United States “has the lowest quality of health care of developed countries but spends more money on health care than any other developed nation in the world.” While the investment in data sharing can seem expensive, many communities look to the potential savings associated with an increased and data-driven focus on prevention, risk mitigation, and strategic intervention.

“Collaborative data-driven strategies in general, and ‘high utilizer’ and jail diversion programs specifically, are receiving national recognition and are looking for communities with working models and proven community cost savings results.”

-Center for Health Care Services (DASH)

“Other methods are to tie the effort to value-based financial incentives and/or Medicaid transformation goals. Initiative 3 under the Global Waiver provides opportunity to fund housing projects. Data sharing across sectors will be key to demonstrating improvements and return on investment. Occasionally legislative mandates can help – bills provide opportunities and/or requirements to facilitate data sharing related to health and housing Finally, sometimes it’s best to use a peer to peer approach.”

– Public Health Seattle & King County (DASH)

Learn more

As ever more examples and values of data sharing emerge, All In will continue to disseminate best practices and lessons learned. Share your stories about communicating the value of cross sector data sharing to improve individual and population health with the hashtag #CHPhealthIT.

Here are three ways you can learn more about current efforts to improve community health through multi-sector data sharing.