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Paint A Picture: Considerations For Effective Data Visualization

August 13, 2019

Analyzing the data

Exponentially increasing data volumes have created a challenge for us in making meaningful use of that information. Simply looking at data in a table or spreadsheet is no longer a viable option for effectively analyzing these large data sets. Attempting to identify patterns and trends through this manner can be an extremely cumbersome and time-consuming process, if not impossible at times. In addition, this data often comes from multiple disparate systems requiring integration, standardization and transformation before the content can be analyzed and interpreted correctly.

Data visualization techniques help address this challenge effectively. These techniques convert raw data into charts, images and tables that make more sense to the reader. Placed in a visual context, the transformed data conveys complex patterns and correlations in a manner that is easier to assimilate by the audience.

While there is broad relevance of data visualization across all industries, the healthcare domain is particularly well positioned to utilize these techniques to greatly influence quality, safety and outcomes. Application within healthcare is wide and varied and include visual representation that can help with risk prediction, outcome optimization, effective utilization, increased patient safety and many more. Empowered to make decisions quickly based upon a holistic picture helps stakeholders communicate better, take proactive actions and ensure timely interventions. An example of such an initiative based upon an effective data visualization strategy helped Saint Joseph Mercy Health System improve their hourly compliance rate by 78.9 percent.

Rapid increase in the number, range and preciseness of information systems used by healthcare teams are generating massive amounts of data – data that can be immensely useful to the teams if they have a quick and easy way to understand and interpret the information. For this to occur, institutions must have an effective data visualization strategy in place. Some considerations to keep in mind are:

  1. Know your strategic road map: Before embarking upon the process of setting up a data visualization program, it is important to identify the most important insights that an organization or department is seeking and to have this documented in a living document that is revisited over time.

  2. Ensure access to relevant data in a timely manner: Armed with knowledge of the overarching metrics and trends that one is looking for, relevant data sources should be identified and a plan created to ensure that all appropriate team members have secure and role-based access to permissible content.

  3. Deploy a data visualization platform: Tools and techniques that can best present the data needed in a creative and easy to understand manner should then be utilized to set up one or more channels for deriving and disseminating the visualizations across appropriate teams.

  4. Remember to monitor and refine the plan over time: Having created an effective data visualization infrastructure does not end there. It is important to monitor the effectiveness of data being visualized in accordance with the original strategic plan. This step ensures that the strategy incorporates an ongoing feedback and refinement loop for validation and improvement.


While there is some upfront effort and thought that needs to go into planning a good data visualization plan, the value of doing this is tremendous and allows stakeholders to effectively view and understand information that will help them make critical decisions related to safety, quality, financial and other perspectives.

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