by adgrooms on May 15, 2019

Data visualization can help people quickly understand and use data that would otherwise take a long time to interpret. Word cloud is one visualization technique that communicates the most important words that are relevant to a subject. In a cloud, the size of a word represents its frequency in the source data or its relative importance to the subject.

Word clouds could be used in patient files to give doctors a quick, at-a-glance understanding of a patient's history and condition. The word cloud could pull words from past history and diagnoses to make key points more prominent and guide the doctor in places to start the conversation with the patient. This visual tool could also guide the doctor to look further into the patient file by following themes or exploring minute details.

One study uses a word cloud (they use the term tag cloud) prototype in an EHR to get to know a new patient. They could click on the tag word to learn more about a specific aspect of the patient data. When doctors compare the tag cloud to using a search bar and scrolling through patient data, testers preferred using the tag cloud over the other two options.

The word cloud could also be used as a tool for the doctor to more easily communicate with a patient. Visualizing words in a cloud format could help the patient more readily understand complex diagnosis or instructions to help them manage self-care.

Word clouds work great in a feedback context. Upon discharge, a patient could be given a questionnaire to get an insight into how they felt about their visit. All of the feedback could be periodically be displayed in a word cloud to put into context what patients are saying about their visit to show where improvements could be made.

What other visual tools could benefit health care? What other ways could data be simplified and condensed to help doctors provide better care and patients obtain better understanding?