5 Ways a Knowledge Management Strategy Could Benefit Public Health
Over the past two decades, “Knowledge Management” is a term that has become common in the business world. Simply put, knowledge management means getting the right knowledge to the right person at the right time, via the most ideal device. In practice, the process is a little more involved—it means gathering raw data and information, analyzing it, contextualizing it, and organizing it so that is easy to locate and access by whoever may need it. Many organizations have already adopted KM strategies for specific groups or topics, but they’re still in the early stages of an enterprise KM strategy, and in many cases, not operating to their full potential. Even though every industry could benefit from adopting a fully integrated knowledge management strategy, some are particularly suited to it. Public health counts among them, and here’s why.
1. Speed of knowledge turnaround is absolutely crucial.
In the corporate world, the speed with which data is turned into actionable knowledge can save the company time and money, but in public health, it can literally save lives. Let’s say, for example, there is a disease outbreak. Collecting surveillance data about the cases, analyzing that data to determine the cause, sending out instructions on how to identify and treat the cases, and making recommendations for preventing its spread are fundamental to its control. This is a process that needs to happen as quickly and efficiently as possible, because in the meantime, more people are unnecessarily exposed.
2. Public health is an industry that deals in knowledge assets.
While a pharmaceutical company deals primarily in goods (medicine) and a local health clinic deals in services (patient care), public health deals in knowledge assets. That is to say, public health doesn’t focus on delivering health-related goods and services itself, but rather on delivering research-based knowledge that the purveyors of health goods and services can act on. The centrality of knowledge-based operations to the mission of public health institutions makes them prime candidates for knowledge management strategies.
3. Leveraging knowledge is important in determining where to award grants for public health projects.
Because public health practice is so collaborative and research-driven, grants are a huge part of almost every prevention strategy. In order to put those scarce tax dollars to their best use, it is critical to leverage the latest knowledge on the most effective interventions to make the greatest impact.
4. These organizations are dedicated to a common goal or mission that a KM strategy can be applied to directly.
In public health, the process of acquiring, organizing and broadly disseminating knowledge about health protection strategies is the primary goal. A fully functional knowledge management system would help more than just the essential background processes any public health organization must face—it would further facilitate efforts already in place to fulfill the mission of keeping the public healthy.
5. Many organizations in the public health sector are already halfway there.
The generation and management of knowledge have been essential functions of public health that are critical to its success throughout its history. Over the past few decades, more and more elements of the traditional public health functions have been automated and the investments in the technical infrastructure and systems have resulted in a robust capability to conduct public health work. The next step is to achieve a fully-integrated KM system that leverages public health’s existing infrastructure and technology to connect public health knowledge workers even faster and more efficiently than before. Such a system would link all of the different nodes of knowledge so that all public health workers can use any internet-ready device to get the right knowledge to the right person at the right time to take action
Those who take advantage of Knowledge Management now and implement a comprehensive KM strategy have the potential to not only reap its inherent benefits, but to become leaders in the field. Combine that with public health’s natural compatibility with a KM model and you get an exciting opportunity on the horizon.
To learn more about our thoughts on the future of Knowledge Management in public health, read our whitepaper, “Envisioning a Future for Public Health Knowledge Management.”