Show Me the Data

6a00d8341c909d53ef01347fd713e4970c-320wi 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.

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6 replies »

  1. It is amazing that every other business model has incorporated computer technology in a way that is a positive for customer service. My clerk at Giant can ring up my order and look me in the eye and call me by name. Perhaps in 1982, it was quite challenging to comply with all these goals when they first implemented POS systems, but they caught on and caught on rapidly. And all the other grocers and stores followed suit rather than be left behind. These first adaptors implemented technology to help the bottom line, provide good customer service and decrease potential for fraud. And they did this without federal incentives to do so.
    As far as garbage in garbage out. If you do not have an engaged consumer and good system management this can be a problem. But let me read garbage any day. I would love to read it and correct it and input the corrections. I would love to help. Let us help.

  2. Following would have to be answered- how, whose, what, when, where & why.
    We could potentially overinvest and not make sufficient use of the data. Also look at current ways of work around for data insufficiency. Those ways might be pretty entrenched and sometimes more useful. A second test might always throw up something else.

  3. The data is meaningfully useless as it comes from meaningfully unusable error facilitating HIT devices. Garbage in garbage out is not in the interests of decision making for medical care strategies.
    Hospitals will continue to perform poorly on patient satisfaction matters because the computer has become the patient, ie the focus of the doctors and nurses to the detriment of the patients.

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