While much (important) discussion in healthcare is about the collection of and access to data, it’s also essential to communicate about it clearly. Good communication of health data, particularly to patients–is too often an under-funded and under-supported afterthought, if it happens at all. The Health 2.0 Show’s webinar Tuesday underscored the importance of effective visual communications.
The three speakers gave examples of very different but effective “pictures” of data. David Hale of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health demoed PillBox, a program that lets people identify pills based on their physical characteristics. This capability could save time, money, and even lives given the more than 1.5 million adverse drug events reported each year in the US.
Next Artist and Patient Advocate Regina Holliday showed her artistic interpretation of hospital ratings data. In Regina’s case, communication to the public of the core concept—that many hospitals are performing poorly based on patient satisfaction–included both a product (a painting) and the process by which it was made. Regina stood on the sidewalk outside of a hospital to paint a child holding report card with low grades, symbolizing poor hospital performance. As she painted, she spoke to passersby, answering questions and educating them about a topic most know little if anything about.
Lastly Ted Eytan, of the Permanente Federation, gave some examples of how the UK has established a culture of relative public transparency through pictures–whether about transportation (graphs that show airline performance in Heathrow Airport)–or about healthcare quality. Images he shared conveyed complex data succinctly using simple graphics and a few colors (such as green for good, yellow for not so good, and red for poor).
As David Hale pointed out, government is well positioned to collect data, but not necessarily to translate it for specific audiences. Rather, as in the case of PillBox, the government should go part of the way, compiling and releasing data in ways that developers, entrepreneurs, and artists can use as a jumping off point. Initiatives like the Community Health Data Forum upport this approach. Hopefully there will be even more similar efforts in the future.
Lygeia Ricciardi is the founder of Clear Voice Consulting (www.clear-voice.com) and part of the leadership team of Clinovations (www.clinovations.com). She’ll be commenting on Health 2.0 Goes to Washington. Follow her on Twitter @Lygeia.