Marc Knuth focuses on simplifying the complex. And when it comes to the complicated world of healthcare, that’s a useful skill. As the director of data visualization services, Knuth works to translate massive amounts of data into easily digestible formats. The result? Business units are able to make better decisions for customers and patients.

Looking to the future, Knuth hopes data visualization can improve the patient experience, too. After all, in the digital era of healthcare, when patients have access to more health information than ever, a better user experience may lead to better health decisions. In this edition of Expert Spotlight, we sat down with Knuth to discuss just how data visualization can improve the future of healthcare.

How would you describe your role at McKesson?

Knuth: I’m the Director of Data Visualization Services. I work with our internal business units to understand what their data visualization needs are using our self-service reporting tools such as Tableau or Microsoft Power BI. We provide the internal service that allows them to access these reporting tools and gain support for those tools. When it comes to our customers, the data visualization presented from these tools can help them make a variety of drug purchasing decisions. It can help pharmacists and healthcare systems better manage their spending and understand the best pricing to offer patients. This allows them to control their spending while still providing cost-effective solutions for patients.

What exactly is data visualization?

Knuth: The amount of data we have is growing exponentially every day. And the most common way to present data to a user might be something like an Excel spreadsheet. But if you have millions of rows of data, for example, you can’t make a clear decision based on that sort of presentation. So data visualization is really both an art and a science. It’s taking data and turning it into an easily consumable format. This could be in the form of a bar graph or a trend chart or some other model. It just needs to answer a specific question a user has. You’re taking the data and translating it into a visual model, which people can process more quickly and then use to make better informed decisions.

What’s something you’re most proud of about your work?

Knuth: When I started with McKesson a few years ago, we didn’t really have common processes for people to follow in terms of data visualization. We didn’t have a centralized “community of practice,” as we call it—something that connects users of data visualization tools with one another. But we’ve since established one. Last time I looked, we had more than 900 members in that community. It’s pretty significant to have that many people from different areas of our business come together and talk to one another about data visualization.

What has your career path been like?

Knuth: My background is mainly in IT. I started coding in COBOL for Y2K preparations, so that gives you a clue to how old I am. From there, I began building manufacturing applications. And about 10 years ago, I found an opportunity in analytics where I started learning about data visualization. Data scientists were building reports for people to try and make decisions with, but the reports weren’t easy to understand. They didn’t lend themselves to making decisions, so data visualization fills that void. It helps translate and simplify the messages.

What are you working on right now that you’re most excited about?

Knuth: I’m adding a new tool for the business, and it’s pretty challenging for me, because I’ve had to go into areas I haven’t had much exposure to. So I’ve had to learn a lot more about our data security and how to check our PHI (protected health information) and PII (personally identifiable information) and talk to the business users and talk to data governance. Plus, for me, it’s always a pleasure working with so many new people. I love it. I get to learn something new and I get to meet new people, and that’s always fun for me.

What do you do to stay on top of your health and wellness?

Knuth: I’ve been a passionate runner for many years, but unfortunately, I’m at the age now where my knees are making that tough, so I have to focus more on walking my dogs and hiking. I lived in Illinois until I joined McKesson, and now I live in Georgia, and I love hiking with all the trees and mountains. And at the gym, I focus more on lower impact exercises like the elliptical machine and weight training.

Can you tell me about a recent experience you’ve had with the healthcare system? It could be positive, negative, or just eye-opening.

Knuth: Before I moved to Georgia a few years ago, I lived in a small community. My primary care physician in town moved, and it was challenging for me to find a new one. At one point, I was even put on a wait list for over a year, which was frustrating. Moving to a larger city, I was amazed at how many care options I have. It’s been a very positive experience for me. But I can definitely relate to those challenges that smaller communities face when it comes to healthcare—of not having enough options for care. I think that’s an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed.

What do you think today’s patients need most when it comes to better care?

Knuth: I think to navigate today’s complex healthcare landscape, people need more simplified dashboards and ways to visualize their information and options. This applies to everything from insurance planning to treatment options. In my opinion, simpler tools to help guide patients would lead to more informed decisions and, ultimately, better care. The future of healthcare needs to take that into consideration.

What do you think is about to change in healthcare?

Knuth: In essence, streamlining services. You already see all these healthcare systems converging. Large healthcare systems are buying smaller hospitals. More pharmacies are offering a wider range of services such as flu shots and health screenings. That’s the future of healthcare. Ten years ago, that never happened, but now it’s very common. I think in the long run, this streamlining will benefit our consumers and help drive our focus on patient care while lowering costs.

What do you hope will change when it comes to patient care?

Knuth: This is one that’s very close to me. I think the focus on healthy eating and its impact on disease is extremely important. I can attest to the benefits of healthy eating within my own family. Healthy eating can have a profound impact on disease symptoms and even regression of health problems. There’s so much information out there about it and the impact it makes. It’s certainly worth taking the time to learn more about that and implement it in your daily life.

Related: Learn about McKesson’s drug spend tools for pharmacies

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McKesson editorial staff is committed to sharing innovative approaches and insights so our customers can get the most out of their business solutions and identify areas for operational improvement and revenue growth.

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