Q&A with Donald J. Wheeler

Donald J. Wheeler is a consulting statistician with Statistical Process Controls Inc. and SPC Press. He knew and worked with W. Edwards Deming for more than 20 years and is a 2010 Deming medalist. Wheeler will be giving his keynote presentation at the Healthcare Systems Process Improvement Conference, sponsored by the Society for Health Systems, on March 3, 2017. 

What is the most pervasive issue or challenge in health systems management today?

Among the many challenges for healthcare management is the challenge of using data more effectively. We are told to be more data-driven, yet no one provides any effective mechanism for doing so. Big data techniques require extreme sophistication on the part of the user to avoid being misled by noise.

Biostatisticians can only tell you how to collect and analyze experimental data. Yet managers have to deal with both day-to-day and long-term issues using data that are the byproduct of operations (observational data). Moreover, since all data are historical, and since management requires prediction, the key question in using your data is how to extrapolate from the past to the future. This question is not covered in the techniques of either big data or biostatistics.

What do you plan to discuss in your keynote presentation?

While we live in the information age, information tends to be random and miscellaneous, while knowledge is orderly and cumulative. Before information can be useful it must be analyzed, interpreted and assimilated. This process of digesting data has been neglected at all levels of our educational system. The extraction of knowledge from data requires more than an understanding of arithmetic.

When using observational data (i.e., business data of all sorts) you will need to separate the probable noise from any potential signals contained within those data. This separation of data into probable noise and potential signals requires some analysis technique. Moreover, this analysis technique needs to be simple and easy to use so that the results can be understood and communicated to others. In my talk, I will cover the premier technique for understanding observational data.

What would you like attendees to take away from your presentation?

It is my objective to help my audience to a completely new way of looking at data.

For more information about Donald J. Wheeler and the other HSPI Conference keynote speaker, go to the Keynote Speakers web page.