What makes a good graph, report, and data visualization?

Telling a clear, authoritative, and persuasive story using only numbers and data is something we analysts grapple with every day. If it takes the doctor, manager, or staff member more than a few seconds to understand a diagram, it is not working. This could be due to the complexity of the report, a struggle to understand the data or a combination of both.

Consultants and analysts are in the business of taking ambiguous problems, structuring them, and telling coherent, actionable stories. This often involves data, reports, and plenty of charts. For many, the answer is still Excel, but Practice Management Dashboards like AtlasKPI have become increasingly available to clinics and spas. Regardless of the tool you use, the reason stays the same: you need accurate and relevant reporting that is insightful and easy to understand.

So what makes a “good visualization?”

First, let’s look at the foundation of a good report. When building a dashboard, the Atlas team focuses on compiling truly impactful charts and diagrams so that management and staff can make the best observation-based decisions. This means asking three questions about any report before creating it:

  • Where do I currently stand?
  • Where am I aiming and what do I want to achieve?
  • What progress am I making?

Once a metric is considered relevant and will help “move the needle,” it’s time to start adding data to the reports. What is it that you’re trying to measure? Capacity, revenue by the provider, profitability by product, marketing ROI, or something else? Based on what question you’re trying to answer, the data should clearly paint you a picture. If your reports don’t give you direction, there could be a few reasons why.

Data overload could be an issue; there’s simply too much data coming from too many places. Your staff could also suffer from analysis paralysis, and spend so much time crunching data that they fail to take action (in effect paralyzing the outcome). A third reason that practices aren’t able to take action based on reporting is due to deceptive data visualizations. Misleading tactics like omitting baselines can be used to make one group look better than another. In the data visualization world, this is known as a truncated graph.

The AtlasKPI team works with practices and medspas to limit the issues described above. So when you’re working with your team to build and review reports, consider the following Dos and Don’ts:

  • Do make sure there are no missing labels on either axis. Good luck guessing what bar charts are supposed to say when nothing is labeled!
  • Do make sure you’re using the best visualization. While the KPI “appointments by month by appointment type” could look better in a pie chart, the sales cycle of lead-to-patient is better visualized in a funnel.
  • Don’t create overly complex visualizations. Don’t try to put all your data on one table. It’s too busy and will be more than a little confusing.
  • Don’t compare charts with different scales. You’ve heard the term “compare apples to apples” and this is no different. You could be looking at charts that look similar but have very different values.
  • Don’t create unsubstantiated forecasts. Look for historical data when preparing for the future. Saying you want to increase revenue by 20% without a strategic plan is just a wish, not a goal.
  • Do look for reports with value. How can data from the report be turned into useful information? What will you do with the information the chart is providing? Can the information lead to a new goal, plan, or strategy?

When combining the above with the day-to-day grind of seeing patients and running a business, managing data can seem daunting. But just like an accountant, financial advisor, or lawyer, AtlasKPI’s data analysts are here to help build your dashboard and improve your outcomes.

2019-06-12T10:46:08-04:00June 11th, 2019|KPI Library|