The case for data visualization to enhance online patient portal usability

With online patient portals, patients can access their health data at home, including test results, labs and an overall picture of their health.

While such accessibility is beneficial for creating informed and engaged patients, the information may be presented in a format that a patient does not understand.

Researchers at Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan conducted a study examining the health literacy skills of adults and found approximately 38 percent of patients with low numeracy and literacy skills understood when hemoglobin levels were outside the standard range.

The researchers suggest data visualization is the key to helping patients view and understand their personal health data in a more manageable way.

There has been a renowned push to data visualization projects to make information more accessible for patients. However, such projects remain moot if EHRs don't adapt their formats to host the visualization efforts, the researchers suggest.

"The present situation, in which patients are given direct access to their lab test results in highly numerical tables is a poor status quo," said Brian Zikmund-Fisher, PhD, a researcher in the University of Michigan study, in a report by The Conversation. "If we are going to spend money making sure that patients can see their results, we have an obligation to change the way we display them by making the format more intuitive."

More articles on patient portals:

Top 5 things patients want in a patient portal
10 recent vendor contracts
Survey: Patients largely unaware of patient portal options

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