Playing Hide-and-Seek With Your Healthcare Data

Do you remember playing hide-and-seek as a kid? I do. But what I especially remember is the time that I hid and my older brothers didn’t seek. (I cannot make this stuff up, just ask my therapist.)

I thought I was so much smarter than they were. I hid and waited and waited and waited…and the sheer joy of outsmarting them only increased my resolve to stay hidden. When I figured I had outsmarted them long enough I emerged from my clearly brilliant hiding space.

Imagine my indignation when I found them playing basketball with the neighborhood boys and my sheer fury when they told me to “get on my Huffy bike and ride away.”

They were unrepentant scoundrels, pure and simple.

I received a clinical quality report last week that reminded me of this story — the well-meaning folks who created it assumed that I would dig and find the hidden message — but I didn’t.

It wasn’t that I was uninterested — it was just too much work.

Take a look at an example of what I mean. The following table is a list of a state’s performance on NCQA measures compared to the overall national average and the national average of sites performing in the 90th percentile of all sites. But the story of the state’s performance is completely hidden and the color coding is of no help — in fact it just makes the table harder to read and more confusing — I gave up on it immediately — if not sooner.

Original Table

Now consider the data in the following table that I created. I simply found the variance between the state rate and the national 90th percentile and separated the measures that fell below the national rate from those that met or exceeded it. Then I grouped similar measures into categories.

I also increased the “signal-to-noise” or “data-to-ink” ratio by eliminating the heavy grid lines and using subtle highlighting to differentiate the table rows, thereby allowing the data to be the most prominent thing the viewer sees — because it’s all about the data.

MQHP NCQA Table Reworked 1
MQHP NCQA Table Reworked 2 Same Data — New Table Display

Now the story is clear about where the opportunities are to improve performance and where the state medical practices are performing well — at or above the national averages.

I still have good laugh thinking about the hide-and-seek story — but more importantly it taught me a very good lesson — you can’t assume that people, whether brothers or viewers of your reports, will take the time to come looking for you or to unearth a story in your reports.

You’ve got to show them and tell them clearly and compellingly with well-designed tables and graphs.

Okay, game over… Come out come out wherever you are…Olly, Olly Oxen Free!!

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