Mindset: the last barrier to advances driven by data sharing

31 May 2023
A couple of years ago, I wrote the Master's Thesis on barriers to innovations in organizations from the public sector. I wrote about the cities and municipalities as this was the sector best known to me then, but I think that, unfortunately, the conclusions of my study could be applied to other industries too. The key barriers I exposed and described were: hierarchical structure, fear of mistakes, old-school managers who control and supervise but lack trust in their employees, as well as fragmented communication, and lack of flexibility in planning. They all come from the need to maintain control over the processes and developments in the organization, while for the innovations to emerge, we need a dynamic system, which many mistakes for being "chaotic" and "messy." Of course, you can apply different processes, but little will change if you don't apply the innovation and growth mindset.

Health data for health

At the beginning of December 2022, I joined the IN4AHA project final conference, dedicated to collecting the learnings from two years of work on boosting the innovations for Active and Healthy Ageing in Europe. I participated in the "Harmonising regulations - Health Data for Active and Healthy Ageing" session, where I was asked about the critical barriers to sharing data B2B and B2G. Is it about regulations, technology, the business value coming from data, or a general atmosphere of trust? I answered: it's about mindset. Regulations are here. Technology is here. Business value is here even if the business models are lagging behind. The trust is here. We made incredible progress in setting the legal framework for data sharing over the last few years. However, many stakeholders, such as health and social care organizations and companies providing tech services, are still unaware of how the European Health Data Space will be interpreted and implemented. Nevertheless, various surveys confirm that people are willing to share their data if they understand the need and context. What about technology, then? I keep hearing from the developers that "all is there"; they are ready. Yet, it's fragmented because of the lack of standardization, but in general, technology should be our last concern. Business value – here, we have a hard nut to crack since it's evident that the well-known business models don't necessarily apply to the reality of the broad data sharing preventing scale-up and uptake. However, I remain optimistic that the new era of world development, as described by McKinsey, will help those new business models to emerge. The authors claim that despite all the reasons for pessimism because of the recent economic, social, and geopolitical developments, the "cluster of earthquakes" we experience might bring the "miraculous progress" not seen before. The IN4AHA Data Governance Guidebook lists four key areas to consider when developing strategies in the context of data governance:
  • Culture and values – ​​to be able to devise and execute a data strategy in terms of people, processes, and technology, a set of shared values and a strong positive culture is very much necessary;
  • Competencies – data control and management assumes a level of both soft and hard competencies that need to be actively developed;
  • Organization – competent people with aligned values need to be organized in a fashion that allows these competencies to be meaningfully applied to gain control of the data and to manage it effectively;
  • Leadership and management – data management in any organization requires planning, leadership, and coordination to manage the people involved.
While I think we won't be able to harmonize culture and values, we can work on adjusting the mindset to navigate the mess and chaos, embrace the change and benefit from all the advantages the future innovations in data sharing will bring.

What does it mean for data-based healthcare?

While we are putting a lot of focus and effort into establishing regulations, developing technology, figuring out the business value coming from data, or discussing the trust issue all over again, it seems that the key barrier to advancing data-based healthcare is a conservative mindset that prevents the innovations from advancing. We know that other industries (tourism, banking) have embraced digital transformation and benefited from it. So why are we struggling with doing the same in healthcare?