Visualizing Digital Healthcare Data

It is no surprise that communications strategies that drive meaningful changes in health outcomes need to be heavily grounded in up-to-date research. Increasingly that research focuses on digital health information as health-related queries continue to dominate Google searches and patients becoming increasingly comfortable sharing personal health information online. In many cases, we are researching everything from conversation trends to social sharing to web traffic to get a better understanding of how our clients can strategically tailor their messages.

Besides using this data to inform messaging strategies, another major opportunity that the flood of patient data provides is sharing that data in aggregate as the message.

Google Flu Tracker

Google Flu trends is a prime example of this. Google has created an algorithm to combine flu-related searches with location data to identify trends in flu infections. While the algorithm had hiccups this last flu season with overestimated infection rates, the concept has proved to be extremely powerful. They have turned this data around in aggregate to view trends on state and national level. Before patients’ symptom levels develop to the point that they are visiting their doctors and enabling the CDC to track its spread, they are heading to Google to do flu research for themselves. Google is able to turn around and leverage that search behavior and location data to provide early insights into flu trends globally

Other great geo-targeted data examples include the “pulse of the nation” mood map and MappyHealth.com where you can track local Twitter trends on everything from the common cold to anthrax.

Many other great examples include elements of interactivity, so that users can actively participate in evaluating the data and uncovering their own insights. This example from GE allows you to identify and compare correlations between demographics, risk factors, and major diseases and conditions.

GE Health Data Visualization

Another great example of interactive health data visualization comes from United Health Foundation, enabling state-by-state and historical comparisons of all types of data, including birth weight, physical activity, and unemployment.

United Health Foundation Rankings

But powerful health visualizations don’t need to rely on real-time social data or web-enabled interactivity. Visualizing 200 years of data on income, geography, and life expectancy can unlock powerful insights into the impact of globalization, medical innovation, disease outbreaks, and war.

Topics To Consider When The Data Is The Message:
When evaluating opportunities to leverage data visualization to communicate with key audiences, take note of these key considerations.

  • Content: What message are you trying to convey by sharing the data? Are there other available data sets that you can leverage to give deeper meaning to your visualization?
  • Form: What form is the most effective in communicating that message? Is it best suited for an infographic? Interactive dashboard? Web video?
  • Function: How can the audience interact with the data? Can it be customized? Can they interact with it to dive deeper and discovery insights themselves? Is it easily shared or updated in real-time?