Non-Denominational: COVID Study Screws Up Mortality Data. Media Follows Suit.

in Data, Uncategorized

Fraction with x numerator and y denominator
A headline in the Washington Post (April 26, 2020), based on the researchers’ conclusions at the time, blared, “In New York’s largest hospital system, 88% of coronavirus patients on ventilators didn’t make it.” (As of April 25, the headline wasn’t corrected. By May 5, it had been changed to read “…many patients on ventilators didn’t make it.”)

The ventilator mortality rate excluded from the denominator patients still in the hospital.

After an immediate outcry from others in the medical community, the research paper was corrected in JAMA online:

“The sentence reporting mortality for patients receiving mechanical ventilation should read, ‘As of April 4, 2020, for patients requiring mechanical ventilation (n = 1151, 20.2%), 38 (3.3%) were discharged alive, 282 (24.5%) died, and 831 (72.2%) remained in hospital.'”

This is one example  —  the coronavirus pandemic has provided many  —  of the importance of proper denominators.Denominators often are not scrutinized closely enough by journalists, by businesses, or by wellness professionals. The gross oversight described here reminds us that, without any background in statistics or data science, denominators used in calculations  —  when, indeed, they are used  —  are one reasonable starting point (population size is another) when interpreting data.

The 4 Steps Wellness Organizations Must Take to Move Our Industry Forward

in Uncategorized, Employee Wellness Programs, industrial organizational psychology

what's next for employee wellnessThis is based on a response I wrote to an astute new leader of a wellness industry organization who was asking, “What should be next for the organization to move wellness forward?”

  1. Broaden the base. Reach out to professionals trained in fields other than exercise, nutrition, and HR. Especially, bring in folks trained in the relatively fast-growing field of I/O Psychology, who have a deeper, evidence-based understanding of wellbeing and also tend to be well trained in analytics. Speaking of which…
  2. Train wellness professionals in analytics. HR finally seems to be getting serious about data, and wellness will be left behind if we don’t have stronger competency in this area. We don’t need to be data scientists, but we should be able to direct analytical work and speak the language. I’ve been studying statistics, business analytics, and advanced Excel, and it’s already added value for my clients.
  3. Help us understand the wellness needs of employees. Because wellness in the US has been market driven, we give most of our attention to what purchasers (employers) will buy, rather than what employees want. Unfortunately, these are rarely the same thing.
  4. Help identify and then advocate for where wellness fits in an organization. As long as we’re tucked away in benefits departments, we’ll be undervalued and weighed-down by healthcare cost-reduction fantasies.