by adgrooms on May 8, 2019

We have spoken about the cost of EHRs but there is a not-yet-realized, potentially very valuable benefit. We are collecting huge amounts of data every second in health care. In other facets of life, big data is telling us more about ourselves from different perspectives. The collected health data has the capability to improve patient outcomes around the world.

Making meaningful use of this data requires careful analysis and good statistical techniques to understand what the data is telling us. Raw data presented in a spreadsheet or just lines and rows of numbers is extremely hard for most people to digest and understand.

There is compelling information to suggest, but no definitive studies, that visual data is processed more efficiently than textual. One MIT study found that the brain can process an image in as little as 13 milliseconds. Data visualization can condense information and give a more intuitive understanding of how different data points interact with each other. It can also help to quickly spot outliers and errors that may be relatively invisible when looking at a large set of numbers. We can detect trends and make informed decisions to encourage or counteract these trends to achieve desired outcomes.

EHRs could use data visualization to help paint a more complete picture of an individual patient or entire population than numbers alone, especially as mobile health monitoring devices, such as Fitbit activity trackers and the Apple watches, become more common. Better visibility could help motivate people to take more ownership of their choices to affect their own data positively. Visualized data could also increase efficiency for doctors giving them the ability to more quickly digest complex patient data points and make diagnoses.

Data visualization can improve outcomes by helping doctors to communicate how different data relates to a patient’s health at a glance. A Cornell study showed that with a visual 97% of people were convinced of a scientific claim being accurate vs 67% without the visual. This could be helpful when doctors interact and discuss various issues with patients increasing trust and leading to higher rates of understanding and compliance when they leave a clinical setting.

Data is being presented everywhere in medicine. We can make great improvements in healthcare by increasing and improving visualization for doctors and patients alike in the software they interact with every day.