Nine tips for choosing what to share

The most important consideration is to figure out what story you are trying to tell, says Lisa Snyder, MD MD, MPH, senior vice president and chief quality officer at Select Medical of Mechanicsburg, PA. "The person collecting the data should step back and ask what gives the biggest, most accurate, and clearest pictures," she says. "Introduce that information first. Then you can add supplemental data that adds to that picture."

Drawing the picture is easier if you follow some simple rules, says Snyder.

1. Group like with like.

Snyder says you should always think about how various data points work together to tell your story. Put risk measures like falls and medication errors in the same place, and make sure that all your infection measures appear together.

2. Explain the nuances.

Providing random bits and pieces can lead to incorrect conclusions, Snyder warns. "Let's say you have a trend graph of three measures related to infection data. One infection rate is going up and two are going down. You can't let them assume the trend is downward. You need to include information on the total number of infections."

3. Provide multiple entries to the data.

Snyder likes to use several data points to explain trends, often using more than one mechanism to do so — raw numbers, bar charts, pie charts, and trend graphs may all be used, she says.

4. Add contextual information.

For instance, Select Medical operates long-term acute care facilities, which have the sickest of sick patients. Data from those facilities on mortality or infection rates may look poor compared to a community hospital whose patients aren't as ill. "What you show them should be the data that applies to the bulk of your patients, the bump in the middle of the bell curve, not the tails," Snyder says.

5. Make it relevant.

If something is hot in the research world, you want to include data that relates to that topic. For example, readmission rates, hospital-acquired infections, and antibiotic stewardship are all issues that are on the radar of regulatory agencies and research bodies. Likewise, Snyder says with a body as august as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, it would be silly not to include metrics that are on its radar. Issues that are of import in your particular facility should also be included. If you have been working to address a problem, put data related to that in front of the board.

6. Be patient-centered.

Snyder says that data that focus on the patient and improving quality of care are a great place to create a basic bundle of metrics to share.

"Data can provoke questions, and sometimes another piece of data will help you answer those questions," she says. "Decide what creates the clearest picture of the way you care for your patients."

7. Do not leave out the bad stuff.

The board makes decisions on the information you give them, Snyder says. "They have to see the entire picture, not just the good stuff, not just what's rosy." Pull the punches now and you'll end up having to do more explaining later.

8. Include benchmarks.

Having a trend graph of catheter-associated urinary tract infections is interesting. But to add meaning, you need to include national benchmarks that give a sense of how you are doing compared to where you ought to be. "The benchmark may be zero. This way they can follow your drive towards that goal," Snyder says.

9. Run a rehearsal.

Show someone not involved with the board what you are thinking of presenting to them. A spouse is a great option, says Snyder. "This will allow you to determine if what you have chosen will tell your story."