Making Data Meaningful: Designing Visual Dashboards for Patient-Reported Outcomes

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Patient-Reported Outcomes (PROs) are becoming an important part of research and quality improvement projects aimed at improving healthcare. PROs capture how a patient feels about their symptoms, health, healing, and quality of life. That information, combined with traditional clinical data, gives doctors a better understanding of their patients’ outcomes and the quality of care they provide.

However, PROs can’t improve care if the information isn’t presented in meaningful and useful ways. Research around the collection of PROs has grown in recent years, but little guidance exists about the best ways to provide this data back to clinicians and patients to facilitate healthcare decision-making. In a new publication, CERTAIN investigators outline a multi-step process they developed for creating interactive visual dashboards that display PRO data gathered from patients who had spine surgery in Washington State.

The investigators worked with a group of stakeholders in the healthcare profession to get feedback about dashboard design and usability. While stakeholder input is essential to this sort of work, the authors point out some challenges. For instance, it is difficult to engage healthcare professionals in time-consuming design work. They have busy schedules and important responsibilities. The investigators overcame this issue by adapting their workflow. They scheduled time-limited activities outside of work hours (e.g., early morning webinars) and provided alternative methods for engagement, such as online surveys. They also met with key people face-to-face.  

This 15-month design process engaged a total of 40 healthcare administrators, providers, and staff. The end result is an interactive PRO dashboard that is being used in spine clinics all over Washington State to improve patient outcomes and quality of care. This sort of stakeholder-informed research is the hallmark of CERTAIN and the learning healthcare system. Through collaboration with engaged stakeholders, new evidence is generated and useful tools are developed that can be returned back to the community and integrated into practice to improve healthcare.