Exploring the Benefits of Data Visualization for Presenting Health Data

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Female business analyst leads a team discussion of several data visualizations displayed on a large wall-mounted monitor.Data visualization—the process of analyzing large amounts of data and communicating the results in a visual context—is a commonly used tool in the current era of big data. Massive corporations like Amazon and Apple rely on data and data visualization to simplify and justify their business decisions as well as maximize their operational efforts. Now, hospitals are looking to leverage data visualization to maximize efficiencies and present health-related findings.

Using data visualization, a hospital can better understand and improve its operating costs, effectiveness, and customer satisfaction, as well as track patient health and progression. These and other benefits of data visualization are truly endless.

Effectively deploying health care data visualization strategies in an organization is the role of a business analyst. Successful analysts must be highly motivated by data, possess expert communication skills to identify and report on key performance indicators (KPIs), and be persistent researchers.

Because many hospitals are just now beginning to leverage troves of valuable data, analysts must be the catalyst for the adoption of data visualization. Individuals motivated to drive data adoption in the health care field would do well to consider pursuing a master’s degree in business analytics.

Data Visualization in Health Care

Data visualization strategies help analysts communicate results from analyzed data. Examples in a health care setting can include patient satisfaction ratings in a bar graph, staffing and operations trends in a line graph, and health care effectiveness in a pie chart.

Using tools like Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, SQL, Google Analytics, and Tableau, hospitals can create data streams and visualizations with the potential to optimize care delivery systems. Data capturing and visualization tools that hospitals commonly use include the following:

  • Surveys are typically used to capture customer feedback and satisfaction ratings. Through quantitative (“Please rate your satisfaction with your visit on a scale of 1 to 10”) and qualitative (additional comments section) strategies, a survey can reveal opportunities for organizational growth.
  • Scorecards are tools used to track progression. It’s common for health care professionals to use scorecards to track the progress of their patients with this strategy.
  • Dashboards are used to house data streams. They’re customizable and interactive, so an analyst can enter the program, extract the data required, and create graphs and charts for presentations.
  • Health care professionals can leverage data visualizations to illustrate data for different audiences. Visualizations create a clear and succinct story for the analyst to tell rather than merely showcasing raw data.

To reap the benefits of data visualization, a team must first identify a project in which data can be effective. Ideally, the project would focus on an area of high value and organizational visibility, with a high probability of success, and that’s simple enough to accomplish within 90 days. Analysts then create a hypothesis around the project and begin capturing relevant data from targeted data sources (inventory lists, customer feedback).

Using tools like Tableau and Microsoft Power BI, an analyst can create an automated flow for transforming data and modeling it into a visualization. Often, the data being captured by a data source will need to be transformed for the system to accept it. Setting up data transformation can be done either through the data source or in a dashboard like Tableau or Power BI.

After identifying the data source, understanding the data transformation needed, and creating an automated process, an analyst can then choose a visualization strategy. These representations can be charts, graphs, or other diagrams that simplify rows of data into a graphic to illustrate the data story. Analysts should meet with stakeholders to confirm visualization preferences.

The data visualizations created from the dashboards can then be exported and used in presentation and reporting programs like PowerPoint or Excel. The data visualization helps the analyst communicate findings in a clear and engaging way to the audience, which could include the health care facility’s board of directors or a public health group.

The Benefits of Using Data Visualization

There are many benefits to using data visualization in health care. Here are a few ways data visualization can increase a hospital’s efficiency.

Care Coordination

Simplifying patient care data through data visualization helps nurses interpret research and easily leverage their information. It also allows health care professionals to access the data of other patients with similar symptoms to understand common timelines for recovery.

Patient Education

Companies like Cigna use data visualization to illustrate an individual’s health status compared with others in a similar demographic. Such illustrations can educate patients on areas where they need to improve, including cholesterol levels, body mass index, and exercise habits.

Public Health

Data visualizations are often used by the media to depict health-related trends on a large scale. An example could be confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. by state. The visualization might show a graph of the U.S. with shading to illustrate which states have been affected most by the pandemic.

Operations

Operational data can help increase organizational transparency by identifying and measuring specific teams and individuals and gauging their performance against their respective metrics. This can help teams learn from each other, share effective practices, and improve the organization’s operational strategy.

Business Analytics Skills and Data Visualization

Business analytics skills are fundamental to data visualization. A business analyst’s skill set commonly includes proficiency with dashboards and data programs. Analytical skills are also needed to interpret and transform the data. A keen interest in data and persistence is helpful to complete challenging projects.

Other core competencies business analysts possess include critical thinking and communication skills. Analysts must build an effective data stream and visualization strategy, as well as report on their findings in an engaging way. Understanding and communicating the purpose of the research is essential to getting organizations to understand it and visualizations created.

An advanced degree in business analytics can help analytics professionals refine these competencies and prepare for a unique and dynamic career in health care. By enrolling in an online program like Ohio University’s Online Master of Business Analytics, an individual can learn to expedite health care processes by implementing data visualization strategies.

Learn Business Analytics Skills to Leverage Data Visualization in Health Care

With courses including Strategic Use of Information Systems, Business Intelligence, and Strategic Use of Analytics, Ohio University’s Online Master of Business Analytics program helps students understand the benefits of data visualization and teaches them how to leverage it in an analytics role. Enroll now to become an expert in data analytics and visualization.

Recommended Readings

Big Data Analytics Tools and Resource for Identifying Emerging Business Trends
Data Mining in Business: What Is It, and How Can It Be Used?
Student Interview: Online Master of Business Analytics

Sources:

CIO, “What Is a Business Analyst? A Key Role For Business-IT Efficiency”
CIOReview, “Data Visualization in Healthcare: Driving Real-Time Actionable Insights”
Healthcare Business & Technology, “A Healthcare Data Revolution—The Case for Data Visualization”
HealthTech, “Hospitals Find and Improve Process Pain Points Via Data Analytics, Visualization Tools”
National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Leveraging Data Visualization to Improve the use of Data for Global Health Decision-Making”