Ming Tang, Chief Data Officer at NHS says ‘we can be better consumers of data to improve healthcare’
Tue 8 Feb 2022 | Ming Tang
Ming Tang, Chief Data & Analytics Officer of NHS England and NHS Improvement, spoke to John Bensalhia about her vital role and how the surge of interest in data is creating even more possibilities for the future!
Big Data World 2022 will see Ming Tang, Chief Data and Analytics Officer of NHS England and NHS Improvement speak on: ‘How The NHS Is Using Data Analytics, AI and ML To Bounce Back From The Pandemic.’
Originally, Ming Tang started out in a pharmaceutical company, before moving on to a more global role within Glaxo, looking at product launches. She explains “we were very fixated on ‘how do we shorten the life-cycle of products and bring products to market. I did a lot of the analysis and support for that. A lot of it was negotiating things across the system.”
Following her MBA, Ming then joined Accenture as a senior manager specialising in strategy and supply chain work – ‘You can’t do that type of work without the influence of data analytics. For supply chains, a lot of it is managing supply and demand and balancing the two, which takes you down the optimisation route and is very data-rich. From there, I started managing a lot more data and digitalisation work and teams that provided advanced analytics. When I left Accenture, I wanted to do something totally different, so I joined the NHS. I helped them develop their strategy plan and information and then really started to get involved in some national programmes of work.’
Fascinated by data
Discussing her career goals, Tang says ‘there were always ways to do better strategies and transformation and you can’t do that without data. You need evidence.’
‘More importantly, ‘ she continues, ‘I’m a big fan of digitalisation, but it’s pointless digitalising something if you don’t get the data on the back of it – to make sure you get the business value. The strategic lens of how you get to business value is very much dependent on the data and the analysis that you do. You need to think about being more transformative and proactive, and instead of looking at what happened, think about how you look forward. To support the information and decision making, you need the predictive analysis and modelling. That takes you more into the advanced analytics, data science world, which is really exciting!
We’ve been talking about technology for a long time, we’ve had the hype for many years and now here it is today.’
Tang’s forthcoming talk is very much in line with moving away from reporting and looking backwards, using the data that we have (activity data and other data) to forecast forwards. ‘The most notable trend for me is that everyone seems interested in data and analytics now! Also, we are much more actively seeking to use data to make decisions rather than previously using a bit of analysis here and there to draw conclusions. Now, we are saying ‘what does this data tell us and does our policy support that?’
Tang emphasises that the main benefits of using data and analytics for the NHS are better decision making, and being able to plan more. ‘We will start thinking about where we need capacity. How can we be more proactive in managing issues? If we have another pandemic on top of Winter, we will have patterns that we can compare and contrast, which we then can apply to machine learning to forecast.’
Looking to the future, Tang is optimistic: ‘I am very passionate that through the work we are doing on capability building within the workforce, that we seed future leaders in the NHS who actually have a data and analytics background. As we become more digital, we really need leaders that are not scared of data, who actually want to use it and engage with it…and the best way to do that is almost to create that from within, so that people are familiar with its value.
I think we are inundated with a lot of imports – we’re going to have to convert those imports into something more meaningful and discerning. Therefore, you need people who are used to looking at the numbers, used to asking for numbers and contextually triangulated to make better decisions. And if you’re not familiar with looking at charts and graphs, it’s actually quite hard. We can do a lot within our profession to make data more usable and to make the graphics more understandable – at the end of the day, you still need people to engage with it.’
Tang affirms – ‘My ambition is to make sure we are upping the capability, not just within the data and analytics workforce, but also across the NHS. Therefore, we become better users and consumers of data and we can make better interventions to improve health and care.’