Everyone loves a good story—but not everyone knows how to tell a story with data. And whether your clinic or office is trying to solve a patient challenge or tackle a process issue, knowing how to turn numbers into an engaging story will help people to better visualize the problem—and a possible solution.
To use data to tell a story, start with these tips.
Start with a question
The best stories often start with a question or a pain point. For example, medical staff may be concerned about long hold times when patients call to schedule an appointment.
Gather your data
Before you determine how to tell a story with data, you’ll need to get your hands on the necessary data. Depending on the issue, data collection can involve everything from reviewing patient records to handing out surveys. Be sure the data you’re working with comes from a trustworthy source, whether it’s your own research or academic data from a credible institution.
In the scenario about long on-hold times, you would need to consider multiple data sources.
- Track how long people are remaining on hold—and if long wait times differ throughout the day or on certain days of the week.
- Determine the length of the average phone call.
- Survey patients as well as staff who answer the phones to determine what takes the most time when calling to schedule an appointment.
Filter and visualize your data
Once you have your data in hand, remove any outliers or unimportant details. Then find the best way to visualize your story. This could be as simple as a pie chart or as complex as an infographic.
For an investigation into hold times, it may be helpful to create a line that plots hold times based on days or hours. However, a bar chart would work better when visualizing time of day vs. lack of staff training vs. customer data collection challenges.
Labelling each chart with a strong descriptor—like “What times have the greatest call volume?”—can help you see your data at a glance.
Tell your story
Once you have an answer to your challenge or question, find ways to tell your story—one that offers a solution to your issue. Using a simple three-step template can simplify the process:
- Set up…Explain the challenge: Customers are experiencing long hold times.
- Conflict…Explain what is creating the challenge: Customers frequently call between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
- Resolution…Offer solutions, such as increasing staff during peak times and creating a message explaining that hold times are longer. You may also direct callers to online scheduling, if applicable. Imprint details on a magnet or jar opener to keep these services top of mind.
You can also vary how you use data to tell a story based on your audience. For example, an administrator in your office would probably prefer a report, whereas customers can be informed of the reasons for their hold times—and your solutions—via a postcard.
Turning data into solutions
When you know how to tell a story with data, you can use numbers to clarify the situation and solve problems. Good luck!