Sophisticated data use is central to the continued provision of modern government and healthcare services – but getting it right isn’t easy. This article is about how government organizations can get data moving and convince citizens of its benefits.
Throughout the pandemic, data has been a key component in delivering essential services and providing ongoing care to people nationwide. And for this reason, we’ve seen governments and healthcare organizations accelerate their data usage faster than ever before to keep up with the needs of the public.
When used correctly, data can improve the design, efficiency and outcome of services. But if mishandled or used without care, it can have disastrous consequences and permanently damage public perception, so it’s important to tread carefully.
Sophisticated data use is central to the continued provision of modern government and healthcare services – but getting it right isn’t easy. Here’s how government organizations can get data moving and convince citizens of its benefits.
Provide a consistent view of data
As we enter the next phase of the pandemic, we’re seeing a substantial rise in digital initiatives aimed at improving how data is shared. In the UK healthcare sector, there are signs of a future where citizens play a more proactive role in their own healthcare monitoring, with data flowing seamlessly between private and public sector organizations.
These more sophisticated data flows can be life-changing, encouraging individuals to play a more active role in monitoring their own health while giving GPs crucial information to guide better decision-making. The result is a complete dashboard of health, covering everything from blood pressure to sugar levels and even more ad hoc procedures like eye tests or vaccines too.
But, to be truly successful, interactions between patients and care providers must be fast and intuitive. Data needs to flow back to the NHS automatically so GPs can be proactive with the information; that data also needs to be readily accessible to everyone involved, but it needs to be stored safely at all times too.
One example from the NHS is a case in point. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, for example, the NHS sought to continue developing its data collection services at a GP level to better understand the provision of healthcare services across the country. But, poor communication, privacy concerns and a lack of control meant that the new project faced intense public backlash – and was ultimately scrapped.
The lesson here is that, for data to be truly actionable, it needs to be available and subject to the right permissions. If government can secure and streamline access to data, aggregate it in the right places and guarantee continual access and control to citizens, the potential benefits for those citizens – and government itself – are huge.
Build trust with citizens
As the NHS example shows, if citizens feel like government bodies aren’t handling their data with care, trust is easily broken.
While people are often used to handing over data to private companies in exchange for the goods and services they consume – think ride-hailing services, fast food delivery and internet browsing – fears of surveillance, data leaks and a lack of clear quid pro quo means the very same people are less keen on sharing this data with the government.
As a result, government bodies need to work hard to build trust and make a clear case for how and why exchanging personal data will deliver better experiences for citizens. The key to gain this trust is to demonstrate exactly what your organization is getting from providing or sharing data at each step in the development cycle, as well as how this also benefits the end-user directly.
This process will happen gradually: compliance is an evolution, not a revolution. But consistent communication and total transparency about where data is and how it’s used will eventually bring about significant results.
Take the time to explain new technologies
Finally, there’s a widespread assumption that new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are set to replace many public sector jobs. It's likely one of the reasons why many are reluctant to get behind new data-sharing initiatives.
The truth, however, is that, rather than replacing roles, new technologies provide the opportunity for people to redefine jobs, develop new skill sets and improve how they work. And that's what the UK public sector can get behind – upskilling the next generation of the workforce to improve productivity.
Ultimately, the best way governments can overcome this negative perception and show the real value of new technologies is to take the time to explain the benefits that these technologies can bring to careers and then invest in upskilling people, so they’ll be prepared to better adapt to change.
The use of data is integral for the day-to-day improvement of government organizations. Driving change can be slow, but if you take the time to educate citizens and users of its benefits and importance, you’ll have a much easier time implementing new initiatives.
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