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Data visualisation in medical communications

james DugganKirstin McKechnieIn the increasingly data-rich but time-poor environment of  front-line healthcare providers, doctors face the challenge of maintaining up-to-date clinical knowledge. Given that it is estimated that by 2020 medical knowledge will be doubling every 73 days, how can medical communications help to address this challenge?

One solution is data visualisation - the representation of information in a visual format such as charts, diagrams or pictures. When implemented well, data visualisation makes information more digestible by identifying patterns, correlations and key messages within the data. However, if executed poorly, data visualisation can lead to confusing or misleading representations.

If we are going to accurately communicate data stories in a way that is accessible and easy to understand we must consider three key factors:

1. Comprehension - communicate a clear message

Our audience doesn’t have time to decipher what the visuals are trying to communicate. We have to invest our time upfront to ensure that the message is clear and meaningful to the audience.

2. Narrative - provide context

Data visualisation can also be thought of as data storytelling. We are building a narrative around the data; a story that links the facts together, making the information more relevant to the audience, and the desired behaviour change more tangible.

3. Accuracy - maintain scientific rigour

As per the ABPI guidelines, data must be presented in a clear, fair and balanced way. We therefore have a responsibility to ensure that the data we present is accurate and not misleading in any way.

Moving forward

Medical communication is most impactful when working at the interface of creativity and science. With the emergence of big data, it is fundamental that the medical communications industry embraces data visualisation in order to support both doctors and patients.

James Duggan is a principal medical writer and Kirstin McKechnie is a senior graphic designer at 90TEN, the Communiqué 2017 Communications Consultancy of the Year and Medical Education Consultancy of the Year.

In association with

90TEN

21st May 2018

From: Marketing

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