Most of us have no idea how thousands or millions of pages of data are converted into usable information that contributes to our knowledge base. This team does it for a living.
Meet the ICON business intelligence team – or, as BI analyst Murray Izzett refers to them, the informatics team. The team is responsible for data that has already been captured in other systems – such as scheme claims data, authorisation systems data, electronic medical records and billing systems – and organising it in such a way that it becomes usable information. “Eventually, through probing questions, and analysis, we hopefully turn it into knowledge,” says Izzett.
Some organisations refer to the latter as knowledge management. “I think the whole process, including the interaction with the clinical team and business managers, can be referred to as knowledge management. Analysis, therefore is one part of our function.” It’s for this reason, he adds, that he prefers the term “informatics team” – it’s a more comprehensive description of the team’s role.
Data and its intricacies are not immediately understandable to everybody, and it’s for this reason that the informatics team’s role is so important. Integral to ICON’s brand is the understanding that it uses evidence-based practice, so in the context of what it does, the informatics team supplements peer-reviewed, published research with substantive information gleaned from within the organisation. “To the doctors, this is valuable as they are part of a continuous programme of clinical review that guides protocol selection with objectivity,” explains Izzett. “To the schemes, this information offers health risk mitigation in so far as cost risks are readily identified.”
The balance of the team consists of Christa Pretorius and Loamie Kotze. Christa, who brings many years of experience as a data analyst, having worked for Medscheme and Metropolitan Life. The team particularly values her order and strong project administration skills. Loamie is new to the team and is fresh from university, having just completed her BCom Hons in Mathematical Statistics at Stellenbosch University. “Loamie’s strong statistical background should supplement our analysis and reporting with more formal methodologies and align us better with some of our clients,” says Izzett.
Izzett himself is team leader and BI analyst; an engineer by training, who found his niche in medical informatics after many years in various roles within the IT sector.
The team’s sense of cohesion is one of its greatest strengths, and it relies heavily on its ability to collaborate. This is perhaps unsurprising, since its primary function is to find those all-important connections between items of information that may, initially, appear disparate or unrelated. “We do not work in isolation,” says Izzett. “We cannot do what we do without a healthy sense of curiosity, and so we ask questions all the time and collaborate as widely as necessary, in order to make sure we model data that can make sense. Our relationship with the various parts of our business, including our external clients, is a really important function and one which I think we do well.
“We are also really good at Excel – which usually impresses people too!” he quips.