'Connecting the dots': leveraging visual analytics to make sense of patient safety event reports

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2015 Mar;22(2):312-7. doi: 10.1136/amiajnl-2014-002963. Epub 2014 Oct 21.


An increasing number of healthcare providers are adopting patient safety event reporting systems, yet leveraging these data to improve safety remains a challenge, particularly with large datasets composed of thousands of event reports. A MedStar Health research team, with expertise in data analytics and human factors, developed intuitive visualization dashboards to facilitate data exploration and trend analysis. Dashboards were developed using an iterative design and development process that was end-user focused. A system level dashboard, representing data from multiple hospitals, and a hospital level dashboard were developed. The dashboards allowed users to directly manipulate the data, provided coordinated displays in different formats, and allowed users to quickly zoom in on specific variables of interest. Overall feedback was incredibly positive with nearly all users wanting to adopt the system immediately. Several improvements were suggested and are discussed. The success of this approach highlights the need for more intuitive data analysis tools.

Keywords: error reporting; human factors; medical error; patient safety; visualization.

MeSH terms

  • Data Display*
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors* / prevention & control
  • Medical Errors* / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Safety
  • Pattern Recognition, Automated
  • Safety Management*
  • Software
  • User-Computer Interface*