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The Importance of Data Visualisation in Healthcare

Published 2020-09-03 11:16:10


Data visualisation, otherwise known as ‘Data Viz’, is the graphical representation of data using illustrative tools such as charts, graphs, and maps to display trends and patterns. Unlike most innovative processes developed between the 20th and 21st century, data visualisation is a practice that dates back to Ancient Mesopotamia (5500 BC) where clay tokens were used to visualise quantitative data.   

In an industry where the amount of health data created is growing at 48% annually, the healthcare sector stands to benefit the most from data visualisation. A research study conducted at Stanford University estimated that 2,314 exabytes of health data would be produced every year starting 2020. This barrage of information makes it increasingly difficult for healthcare providers to analyse data that is meaningful and essential to their daily operations. With data visualisation, healthcare providers can focus on data trends and patterns that are relevant to patient care.

Responsive Care

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven how valuable data visualisation tools are to developing rapid care responses. Across the globe, healthcare institutions and providers continue to utilise big data analytics to understand the nature of the virus. Dashboards such as the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 map have been instrumental in processing vast amounts of data to provide user-friendly dashboards to healthcare organisations and the public.

With data visualisation, dashboards can display key metrics that help make informed decisions to improve patient outcomes. The real power of dashboards, however, lies in their ability to provide real-time insights. With real-time analysis, healthcare organisations are well-positioned to identify trends and patterns in patient information to deliver tailored patient care. 

Improved Operational Efficiencies 

The fast-paced reality of healthcare organisations requires staff at all levels to be equipped with the right information to administer effective patient care. In an environment where delays can be the difference between life and death, resources must be allocated and managed appropriately. With data visualisation, healthcare providers can view information that provides insights into operational performance. 

One way in which data visualisation can promote operational productivity is through displaying how many patients are expected at certain times of the day. By visualising this data, facility managers can designate staff accordingly to reduce the common issue of understaffing. 

Other key metrics that can be visualised to uncover insights include the length of stay, average waiting time, readmission rates, facility mortality rates. 

Trend Identification 

A large contributing factor to delivering effective patient care is the ability to identify trends and patterns affecting outcomes. But with the plethora of patient information being processed daily, sourcing relevant and accurate data becomes a time-intensive and challenging task. 

Using Power BI, data visualisation tools can consolidate patient records and display relevant information to medical personnel. The data provided from the visuals can help healthcare providers to better understand the factors surrounding the patient health to improve treatment plans. 

Preventative Care 

With real-time data-visualisation, healthcare organisations can utilise predictive analytics that report on potential future outcomes, based on individual health records and personal habits.

Through the use of predictive analytics, healthcare professionals can monitor and isolate high-risk patients to develop tailored preventative patient care plans that reduce hospital visits and hinder the progression of certain conditions.

User-friendly and data retention 

According to a study conducted by MIT, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Furthermore, the University of Minnesota found that humans processed visual data 60,000X faster in the brain than text. With time being an asset in the healthcare industry, healthcare providers need to process and interpret information quickly. Data visualisation enables healthcare providers to make sense of large data sets and see how relationships between data sets ultimately affect patient care quicker.

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