Unleash Your Inner Healthcare Data

A free twice-monthly guide to understanding, presenting and using healthcare data, information and evidence.

Katherine S. Rowell @ Associates

Katherine S. Rowell @ Associates

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July 8, 2011                Volume 2 Issue 13           

 

Did you know that the human eye can see 7,000,000 colors?  

 

Did you know that colors evoke a range of emotions and reactions?   

 

Did you know that approximately 10% of all males and 1% of all females are "color deficient" or "color blind?"  

 

Did you know that red, yellow, green is "so last season?"

 

All true.

 

In today's issue I will show you how a few simple techniques can make the message in your reports clear and compelling  and leave your audience feeling much, much calmer...without all that red, yellow and green! 

 

We've also scheduled new Workshops for November, so check them out and stay tuned for additional upcoming dates.

 

My very best,

 

Kathy Signature 

Katherine S. Rowell

Principal | Founder

 

P.S. The permanent link for this newsletter is here.

Red, Yellow, Green Is SO Last Season

   

Listen up folks...it is time for a red, yellow, green color intervention of the most serious kind.  The use of red, yellow, green to indicate performance on your reports and dashboards has reached a crisis level and can no longer be ignored. 


It is time for some serious professional help.

 
Here is your choice: go into color rehab treatment and clean up your act or, risk losing your stakeholders attention and -- even more damaging -- risk obscuring important information they require to make informed decisions. 


And just to be clear -- you are absolutely risking these things by overusing and incorrectly using red, yellow, green color coding in your reports and dashboards.  (And besides, red, yellow, green is SO last season.)


I can read your thoughts - "but that is what people ask for -- they want to emulate a stoplight -- they LIKE red, yellow, green."  And I liked cheap beer until I tasted the good stuff. 

 

Let's consider how the use of these colors is hurting and your reports and what you can do to fix it.


1. Did you know that approximately 10% of all men and 1% of all women are colorblind?  Yes, it is sad, but true.  So, where most of us see this:

 

Stoplight 1

 

Our colorblind colleagues see this:

 

Stoplight Colorblind

 

Which means, that when you publish a report that looks like this to the majority of us:

 

Medical Center Results2010
Q1Q2Q3Q4
Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI)    
Aspirin at Arrival88%83%78%83%
Aspirin Prescribed at Discharge38%86%60%86%
ACEI or ARB for LVSD40%70%53%83%
Adult Smoking Cessation Advice/Counseling80%80%80%80%
Beta-Blocker Prescribed at Discharge89%92%89%87%
Fibrinolytic Therapy Received Within 30 Minutes of Hosp Arrival98%98%98%97%
Primary PCI Received Within 90 Minutes of Hospital Arrival86%86%86%65%

 

There are about 10% of the men and 1% of women who will only see this:

 

Medical Center Results2010
Q1Q2Q3Q4
Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI)    
Aspirin at Arrival88%83%78%83%
Aspirin Prescribed at Discharge38%86%60%86%
ACEI or ARB for LVSD40%70%53%83%
Adult Smoking Cessation Advice/Counseling80%80%80%80%
Beta-Blocker Prescribed at Discharge89%92%89%87%
Fibrinolytic Therapy Received Within 30 Minutes of Hosp Arrival98%98%98%97%
Primary PCI Received Within 90 Minutes of Hospital Arrival86%86%86%65%

 

2.  Additionally, without a column that indicates what the red, yellow and green thresholds mean (goal or benchmarking data) the viewer has no way of knowing when a measure rate changes.  What is the rate that will change the color in this report to green? Or yellow? Or (oh horrors!) red?


And since when is red a "bad" color?  It simply means stop on a traffic light - a very good thing for managing traffic.  Red can symbolize fire, passion, heat and in many countries it is actually a symbol of good luck...but I digress.


Using all the red, yellow and green also breaks the big data display design rule - which is:   

Increase the DATA INK and decrease the Non-Data INK

 

The data, data, data is what it is all about -- not colors, gridlines and fanciful decoration.


So what can you to do without your stoplight colors in order to draw viewer's attention to important data?  Plenty..... 

 

You can eliminate all of the non-data ink and add data-ink to the areas of importance by:

  

  • Italicizing and bolding
  • Using soft hues of color to highlight data
  • Applying simple enclosures to denote the data as belonging to a group that needs attention paid. 

 

 

You can do all of these things as I have below or just one or two depending on how much data you have in your table.

 

 

Medical Center Results2010
Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI)Q1Q2Q3Q4Target
Aspirin at Arrival88%83%78%83%80%
Aspirin Prescribed at Discharge38%86%60%86%80%
ACEI or ARB for LVSD40%70%53%83%80%
Adult Smoking Cessation Advice/Counseling80%80%80%80%80%
Beta-Blocker Prescribed at Discharge89%92%89%87%85%
Fibrinolytic Therapy Received Within 30 Minutes of Hosp Arrival98%98%98%97%95%
Primary PCI Received Within 90 Minutes of Hospital Arrival86%86%86%65%85%

   
 

This method of displaying the data is much easier on the eyes and brain - it is far less jarring and allows the viewer to focus on the information that is important. 

 

You could also simply sort and categorize the data to show where improvement is required versus where things are going well.  Consider the following example report for Q3 results:

 

 

Medical Center Results2010
Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI)Q1Q2Q3Target
     
Measures Requiring Improvement:    
Aspirin at Arrival88%83%78%80%
Aspirin Prescribed at Discharge38%86%60%80%
ACEI or ARB for LVSD40%70%53%80%
     
Measures that Meet or Exceed Target:    
Adult Smoking Cessation Advice/Counseling80%80%80%80%
Beta-Blocker Prescribed at Discharge89%92%89%85%
Fibrinolytic Therapy Received Within 30 Minutes of Hosp Arrival98%98%98%95%
Primary PCI Received Within 90 Minutes of Hospital Arrival86%86%86%85%

 

 

By arranging the report in this way I have eliminated the viewers need to hunt and peck and synthesize the measures that require improvement.  They are at the top of the report and clearly and simply displayed.


Now go back and take a look at red, yellow, green table -- check your pulse and note if your jaw is clenched.  Look at the newly designed data tables -- I bet you feel calmer already. 

 

And if you were wondering how colorblind people manage to drive it is because of the order of the lights.  They know that red is first, then yellow and green.  If the lights are arranged horizontally though, all bets may be off and you should proceed with caution...lots and lots of caution...

 

New Workshop Dates

 

Workshop I -- Communicating Healthcare Data with Tables and Graphs

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 | Farmington, CT
 

Workshop II -- Dashboard Design for Communicating Healthcare Data

 Thursday, November 3, 2011 | Farmington, CT

 

Space is limited to 30 participants, so don't hesitate to sign up today! 
  
 Click here for additional details and to register for upcoming Workshops.  


Want to send a group of five or more?  Drop us a note and we will contact you about our group discounts.


Interested in a private, customized Workshop for your group?  Contact us and we will be in touch to discuss your needs.

 



We teach and advise organizations how to correctly capture and manage their healthcare data and how to communicate it clearly and compellingly.

For more details on our educational and advisory services:

Call us: 617-797-6471 | Email us: info@ksrowell.com 

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