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Data visualization helps us make better decisions about our health

The doctoral dissertation of degree MSC (Tech) Andres Ledesma in the field of Biomedical Sciences and Engineering titled Assessment of Data Visualizations for Clinical Decision Support will be publicly examined in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology at Tampere University at 12 o’clock on Friday 18092020 Tietotalo, Korkeakoulunkatu 1, Tampere. 

The Opponent will be Professor Gearóid ÓLaighin from National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland. The Custos will be Professor Ilkka Korhonen from Tampere University, Finland.

The dissertation is available online at http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-03-1623-5

Key words: Tietojen Visualisointi, Terveysinformatiikka, Kliininen Päätöksenteko, Kliinisen Päätöksen Tuki. Data Visualization, Health Informatics, Clinical Decision Making, Clinical Decision Support.

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Information about our health can be complicated and difficult to understand. Think about all the laboratory tests, imaging studies, medications, and previous consultations with several doctors. Data visualizations can help us summarize the information and understand the full picture.

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. This is true, especially when a picture can help us understand information that is complicated. Data visualizations are a key component in financial reports, population statistics and other scientific fields. However, not much has been done to visually summarize information pertaining to our health.

Medical doctors and nurses struggle to understand all the information they have about their patients. It is also common that doctors and nurses struggle to keep up with the demand for healthcare. Time is of the essence, and with so much information, we could really help them if we can come up with ways to visualize complex information. “Information visualization will bring profound changes to personal health programs, clinical healthcare delivery, and public health policy making.” said Ben Schneiderman and his colleagues.

Data visualizations have the potential to assist healthcare providers in reducing the time and effort they need to put into understanding information about their patients. If the understanding of the information improves, so does the treatment and quality of life of the patients.

But how do we know if a visualization is helpful? For that, we need to study if a visualization indeed helps people make better decisions. It comes down to reducing the mental effort needed to understand information by using visual elements. This doctoral thesis explains three different studies that show how data visualizations helped people make better decisions regarding health and wellbeing. The work done in the thesis is useful to understand how to know if a visualization is helpful in this domain, and what can be done to improve it.

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The research work of Andres Ledesma has helped to create new visual solutions also for handling health and wellbeing data in Movendos. A good example of this is Movendos Health Index (in the picture below). Movendos conducts research cooperation in terms of digital solutions promoting individual health.

 

Movendos Wellbeing Index_kaavio_ENG_rev