Visualizing Annual Reports and the Donaghue Foundation

Recently I was engaged to help the Donaghue Foundation re-imagine parts of its 2017 Annual Report. I was thrilled to work on this project, as the important work the Foundation does is completely in alignment with what I believe about our collective need to improve our healthcare system and people’s health.

As the report says, the Foundation envisions “continued improvement in people’s health as a result of converting research into practical benefit.” It will be “an imaginative, collaborative, and engaged participant in the process that begins with rigorous health research and ends in realized health benefits and by doing so will give the vision of Ethel Donaghue its best expression.”

The initial request by Donaghue’s leadership was to
add data visualizations in different places throughout the report — simple enough. But as I read of the grant awards and the research that Donaghue supports, I wanted to do much more. I wanted to make its important funding of researchers’ work “visible” and engaging.

Luckily, the Foundation decision-makers agreed, so we collaborated to highlight and give visual form to the problems the project teams tackle; the ways their research proposes to improve health and healthcare; and how they will report and disseminate their results and ideas.

To accomplish these crucial tasks, we created the Greater Value Portfolio Research Spotlight.

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First, we built a template to follow for each of the grants to be included in the Spotlight section, studying the grant applications to see where we could use graphics and data visualizations to engage readers.

As you can see in the example above, the header includes the name of the project and the researchers’ names and credentials, followed by a one-line statement of its scope and a slightly longer summary of parameters, how the project contributes to improving value in health and healthcare, and how much money the Donaghue Foundation awarded.

In order to grab the reader’s attention, we designed a bold graphic that says clearly, “This is the adverse health outcome the team is working to understand, improve, perhaps even eliminate.” In this example, the latter is the number of Americans dying daily from opioid-related overdoses.

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The next section describes the underlying problem associated with the adverse outcome on which the team will focus, along with a simple bar graph displaying the problem.

In this project, it’s the opioid-prescribing patterns of physicians — specifically, the pill burden, or number of days that a prescription covers. Physicians who are high-intensity prescribers are more likely to have patients who use opioids longer.

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The last section of the Spotlight describes the project approach: what the researchers will do, and how they intend to do it.

In this example, part of the plan is try and change physician prescribing patterns (i.e., prescribing fewer pills, reducing the pill burden) by incorporating alerts into electronic medical records using a concept called Relative Social Ranking. The RSR displays physicians’ opioid-prescribing patterns compared to those of their peers. Again, we created a simple bar graph display to illustrate the concept.

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The last part of the Spotlight details how the project teams propose to raise awareness and disseminate the results of their work.

In a world full of bad news, I find hope in the good and important efforts that groups like the Donaghue Foundation are making. I’m also excited and gratified that the Foundation engaged me to help more people “see” the great work it funds and supports. In fact, I already have a copy of the Annual Report in my desk drawer.

On days when I’m looking for inspiration, I take it out and remind myself of all the vital, useful developments happening on the front lines.

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