How Should We Teach Doctors Data Literacy?

How Should We Teach Doctors Data Literacy?

Sick care has turned into a data industry that happens to take care of patients. There is data, data everywhere. More students are interested in writing the book. Unfortunately, few know how to read it.

Medical data illiteracy is growing. How to read the medical literature has taken a back seat to promoting statistical thinking and interest in quantitative data analysis, and the gap extends from k-12 through graduate and professional school. Data literacy has become one of the tools the workforce of the future, including doctors ,will need to win the 4th industrial revolution.

For example, The Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy partnered with AI and healthcare experts to identify the top three issues slowing the development, adoption and use of AI-enabled CDS (clinical decision support) software.

  1. Not enough evidentiary support: Developers and researchers should provide more evidence on how AI-enabled CDS systems may affect patient outcomes, care quality, costs of care and clinician workflow. More available evidence would help ensure the effectiveness and trustworthiness of the technology.

  2. Patient risk assessments: Developers should provide more information about how the technology was made and trained, which would allow regulators and clinicians to assess the technology’s risk to patients.

  3. Bias: It should be ensured that the software was developed with data-driven AI methods that don’t perpetuate existing clinical biases. Researchers also suggested assessing the technology’s scalability and ability to protect patient privacy.

Patient-collected data is becoming much more prevalent in recent years, and as a result it has begun to play a substantial role in many recent organizational innovations and informatics projects. When patients bring this data to preventive and follow-up visits, they expect it to help care providers to inform their decision-making and improve their care. However, physicians and care providers often struggle to find value in and utilize this data due to gaps in training, confidence in security and privacy, as well as general lack of capabilities to use this data. As such, many organizations are calling for increased data literacy training so as to strategically drive the message of the overall capabilities of data.

So, how, where and what should we teach medical professionals to be data literate?

  1. The learning objectives , curriculum, KSAs and competencies should be market driven.

  2. Learning management systems should conform to the realities of time available, adult learning theory and availability of mobile devices, recognizing that there is a sick care digital divide throughout the US and other countries.

  3. Content should be presented to health professionals the way they learn, typically mentored case based instruction in medical school and residency and throughout continuous medical education.

  4. Competencies should be measured, recognized and rewarded.

  5. The idea is not to train every health professional to be a computer scientist. The goal is to help them interpret data so that it translates into stakeholder defined value.

  6. We should collaborate with technology partners and organizations to help create a cohort of instructors and train the trainers.

  7. Data literacy should be a component of a mandatory course in digital health.

  8. Existing biostatistics courses and programs should be updated to expand student data literacy capabilities.

  9. Professional associations and medical societies should offer their members instruction in data literacy as it pertains to their clinical needs.

  10. Data literacy should be taught in CMO school.

Data scientists, computer technologists and healthcare professionals, increasingly, are becoming more and more separated by a common language. Patients are the ones who get lost in the translation.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs.

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  • Adam Levy

    I love how you are combining data with healthcare.

  • Elsa Morgan

    They should teach that in medical schools

  • Alex Campbell

    You have made some great points

  • Josh Stubley

    Successful hospitals don’t simply want to know the answer to what is happening, they aim to understand every solution behind all questions.

  • William Terry

    Give doctors the tools they need to quickly explore and report on our data !

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Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA

Former Contributor

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is a professor emeritus of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health and President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at He has created several medical device and digital health companies. His primary research centers around biomedical and health innovation and entrepreneurship and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need his expertise and contacts in the areas of bio entrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism -- nationally and internationally, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures. He is a former Harvard-Macy fellow and In 2010, he completed a Fulbright at Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. He recently published "Building the Case for Biotechnology." "Optical Detection of Cancer", and " The Life Science Innovation Roadmap". He is also an associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology and Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape. In addition, He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School where he teaches Biomedical Entrepreneurship and is an iCorps participant, trainer and industry mentor. He is the Chief Medical Officer at and and Chairman of the Board at GlobalMindED at, a non-profit at risk student success network. He is honored to be named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives of 2011 and nominated in 2012 and Best Doctors 2013.

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