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Rony Arafin, chief operating officer, AphA CIC

Rony Arafin, chief operating officer, AphA CIC

How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?


The Association of Professional Healthcare Analysts (AphA) is an organisation dedicated to providing development and networking opportunities to analysts working in the health and social care sectors.


It aims to raise the profile of healthcare analysts, providing a professional support network, building links with those who are setting the national agenda and driving up the quality and applicability of robust analytics as an aid to evidence-based decision making in the health and care system, by sharing information, knowledge and skills and showcasing best practice.


AphA has members across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, representing all areas of the healthcare sector and all bands of staff, and is growing rapidly, with 12 regional branches across the UK.


AphA is an analytical community providing analysts access to workshops, regional and national events, the AphA website (www.aphanalysts.org), a monthly magazine and online resources, with the benefits offered increasing all the time.

 

2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?

 

2020 was an extraordinary year in many ways, but it also meant that the need for data and analytics was put at the forefront of decision making, be it a local or regional health and care setting, or at a national front.

 

My role for driving analytics at Devon NHS STP (sustainability and transformation partnership) meant that some of the planned analytical activities needed to be prioritised to accommodate urgent demands, for example, suggesting where NHS Nightingale hospitals could be placed to help the community, fact-finding health equalities and impact to manage the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 in the ethnic minority communities etc.

 

To do this, the analytical leadership had to be more visible than ever before. We introduced advanced analytical methods to move from data shifting to providing meaningful analytics to improve care, this meant we had to provide robust training for upskilling staff and also work hard with the rest of the system to change the culture of how we use data and analytics.

 

Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?

 

We have refreshed our organisational commitment at AphA:

 

  • Our aim is to help develop analytical capacity and capability in health and care fit for the 21st century, ensuring equitable recognition of analytics as a profession with progressive career pathways.
  • We will ensure that the experience of our members will be the best it can be and for their voices to shape our decisions and what we offer.
  • We will help develop health and care for the future by using robust analytical methods, keeping quality of care and experience at the heart of all activities.
  • We will facilitate a thriving analytical community to advance skills, share knowledge, implement good practice, and improve decision making.
  • We will foster links with organisations and networks, including those in the research and academic community, in order to harness the clear benefits to be gained from collaborative relationships.
  • We will promote the value of analytics and provide independent thought leadership through lobbying, influencing, and challenging key decisions and policies.

Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?


NHS data is a unique information resource for the UK and making effective use of it will be vital for greater good for our citizens. When there is such value at stake, it will be increasingly necessary to manage significant datasets or data sources strategically.

 

As the leader of AphA representing the health and care analytical community for the entire UK, my personal commitment is to use the data for good and move towards an open sharing culture where possible.

 

This is amplified by our organisational purpose, which is to raise the profile of and represent the voice of health and care analysts as a recognised and respected industry expert, by providing a professional framework and an established support network. We will help our members to drive up the quality and application of analytics to improve experience, use data and analytics for good in a fast paced and dynamic health and care system.

 

What has been your path to power?

 

I have always been inspired by using data and analytics to improve health and care, and citizens’ experience of using health services. I started my career as an analyst, moving on to become a business intelligence specialist and then taking on a leadership role to promote data and analytics, change culture and behaviour of making use of analytics.

 

I have worked with various private and public sector organisations and have over 12 years’ experience within the NHS. I am privileged to be an honorary Member of the University of Exeter Medical School due to my role in advancing analytics in the NHS.

 

As the assistant director of information for the Devon STP, I am leading the analytics strategy aligned to the NHS Long Term Plan. In previous roles, I have led teams to deliver business intelligence, clinical systems and advanced analytics modelling services.

 

My personal focus has always been around co-design, application of advanced methods to deliver insight and intelligence. This also includes effective data visualisation to provide compelling stories.

 

My involvement with AphA began in 201 -; I started as a board member and was selected as the chief operating officer to drive the national organisation forward in August 2020.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

 

My proudest achievement when I took on my current role, representing health and care analysts across the UK. It is an analytical leadership role like no other and I am humbled by the opportunity to lead the data and analytics agenda, working with various key national partners – NHS England and Improvement, NHSX, Health Education England, the Health Foundation, Kings Fund, NHS-R Community, and many others.

 

Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?

 

My main areas of focus are:

  • Facilitating a thriving analytical community to advance skills, share knowledge, implement good practice, and improve decision making.
  • Foster links with organisations and networks, including those in the research and academic community, in order to harness the clear benefits to be gained from collaborative relationships.
  • Connecting with the analytical community, wave the flag for the scientific workforce and drive the application of robust analytics to make a marked difference in how we use data for good.

 

How closely aligned to the business are data and analytics both within your own organisation and at an industry level? What helps to bring the two closer together?

 

Both my role at the NHS and for AphA, data and analytics are at the heart of what I do. With my national AphA role and my health and care analytical leadership profile, I am working closely across a range of collaborative partners, including the Federation of Informatics Professionals (FEDIP), to advance the use of analytics and exploit the value it brings, both at an organisational and national level.

 

Conducting analysis of NHS data in a consistent, professional, and appropriate manner which is transparent, code-based, and replicable is vitally important, and should be a minimum requirement. Unfortunately, that is far from the norm in the current system.

 

The recently published article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, “Bringing NHS data analysis into the 21st Century,” sets out the challenges facing the system and makes recommendations and tasks for different organisations.


Health and care organisations employing informaticians, analysts, and data scientists need to have confidence that this element of the workforce is appropriately qualified and skilled and can meet the analytical requirements of a 21st century health and care system.

 

By utilising existing resources and augmenting, supporting, and collaborating on activities for greater transparency and consistency rather than duplicating effort, will ultimately help all staff become better commissioners and consumers of data analytics.

 

What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?

 

The main factors are co-design and authentic data leadership. We need organisations to have chief analytical officers similar to chief information officers, we need visible analytical leadership to not only improve the maturity of the analytics capability, but to work with the rest of the organisation, including vast array of non-data savvy colleagues, to facilitate cultural transformation.


We should also be open to change and have dialogue with people who are receivers of information. By articulating the value of analytics, it will help support the development of analytical talent and improve the wider benefit realisation of data and analytics as a valued entity.

 

This provides organisations with a way of ensuring that their analytical maturity is fit for purpose and in prime position to respond to the evolving challenges within health and care services in future decades.

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