5 steps to get maximum value out of dashboards

Visualization tools, metrics and data preparation are some of the keys to optimizing information.

5 steps to achieving maximum value out of dashboards

Dashboards help present important data to healthcare executives to manage operations to meet government standards and provide quality care. These interactive tools can make the vast amounts of unorganized, unstructured and inconsistent data more easily accessible to staff, physicians, administrators or even patients.

There are five key steps to getting a dashboard initiative underway, according to iDashboards, a data visualization software company specializing in tools to aid healthcare reporting.

Select the most appropriate data visualization tool

There are a number of different options for data visualization tools. Healthcare organizations should assess applications for affordability (not only the cost of the software, but also the training and licenses that are needed); security (ensuring that patient data is protected, including where it’s hosted and stored); and accessibility (easy to build for analysts and easy to understand for users).

Determine the audience

Healthcare organization executives should identify who will be using the dashboard—the goals and the design will differ depending on the audience. For example, a physician may want a dashboard that helps them track the number, status and satisfaction of their patients. By contrast, a hospital CEO may want a dashboard that focuses on financial goals by monitoring departmental spending, quarterly income and the cost of care. To configure dashboards, input is needed from end users to avoid building presentations that are not wanted or needed.

Define metrics and key performance indicators

After determining the consumers of dashboard information, the next step is deciding what they’ll be looking at. That requires customization, because each healthcare organization has unique needs and must customize dashboards to meet its needs. Start by making a list of ideas, beginning with the reports that an organization currently has and envisioning what they would look like as a dashboard. Transferring existing reports into dashboards could end up saving time in the long run—live updates on data can provide quick, actionable insights. Dashboards are most effective when they contain four to six relevant metrics, easily digestible in one glance.

Get data in shape

Presenting data in a dashboard requires preparation, which may necessitate the use of an extract, transform and load (ETL) tool. They enable organizations to take data from multiple sources, standardize it and write data into a target destination or database, with the purpose of using data and analyzing it effectively. Data from multiple sources are needed to have a clearer and more holistic picture of healthcare operations—it’s easier to identify correlations when metrics are visualized together.

Offer the right charts, graphs and design

The final step in building dashboards is determining the best charts, graphs and colors for the data. Data should be represented in ways that are both aesthetically appealing and functional. The effectiveness of charts differ—comparisons over time work best with a line chart, for example, where a bar or column chart can show the comparisons between many different values. Colors also can communicate information—red typically means bad, and green is considered good. But in any event, colors can highlight important metrics. However, using more than six colors in a single dashboard becomes ineffective.

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