October 16, 2018

The Power of Data

In our modern digital environment, there are constant signs of data’s power at work. Earlier this year, for instance, the results of one of the largest studies on asthma were published –the outcomes will change people’s lives.

The project, conducted in Louisville, Kentucky, used inhaler sensors, a digital health platform, environmental data and hundreds of thousands of crowd sourced real-world data points. Its goal was to monitor when and where asthma patients were using inhalers to identify environmental triggers and to enable a difference in patients’ lives through a more proactive approach to regulating their asthma symptoms.

The outcomes of the project showed an impressive 78% reduction of patient rescue inhaler use and a 48% improvement in symptom-free days. Findings also informed recommendations for actionable environmental improvements such as enhancing tree canopy and zoning for air pollution emission buffers.

Managing data, though, can be complicated
While many organizations operate on the belief that more is better, the “rapid rise in our ability to collect data hasn’t been matched by our ability to support, filter and manage the data.”1 As a result, companies reach a saturation point where too much data becomes overwhelming and unusable.

And, as new regulatory requirements shape the boundaries of our data use and stewardship, we begin to realize that part of our ability to harness data’s power comes down to designing ethics, privacy and security into the data life cycle – from collection to solution.

Programs such as data mapping enable us to merge compliance criteria and business objectives for more strategic data use. Using data mapping helps organizations to understand the technical and organizational structure that underly their data collection, use and management with more focus, and purpose.

Suddenly, knowing which types of data to collect becomes easier. So do decisions and policies about data retention and minimizing data by purging all that does not hold value to an organization or the customers they serve. These aspects of data management neatly align with GDPR and other new regulations AND enable us to cut through the sea of data to capture only the information we need to consume.

A balancing act
Over the last few months, we’ve explored several concepts around preserving data resources, including data responsibility and data commoditization. It’s clear that the value of data is immeasurable and has the power to affect global social and economic change.

To truly harness that power, however, it is imperative organizations remember they have a responsibility to respect their data subjects. With a growing understanding of data economics, consumers have become savvier and are looking to work with and trust the companies that they provide their personal information to. Taking efforts to increase transparency around data usage while growing and innovating will support the strengthening of trust between organizations and their clients, perhaps creating long-term loyalty in a short-term focused world. People want to know they are doing business with a company that will do right by them, and ultimately that sentiment will help organizations stand apart from their competitors.

In balancing these goals of principled, and thoughtful data use throughout the data life cycle, organizations will find they are best positioned to unlock the immense power of data.

Read previous posts in our 3-part data blog series:

Data Responsibility: Maintaining Respect in the Process of Delivering Benefit
Data Commoditization And Transparency: Steering Data Use by Conscience Rather Than Greed

About the Authors
Christina Whiting is the managing director of privacy, enterprise risk and compliance at Tevora.
David Grazer is the privacy practice lead at Tevora.