Many Numbers, Much Wow (Pt 2)

Project Alloy – Week of November 15, 2020 (still)

“Wait, didn’t you already do an update this week?” You’re probably thinking to yourself. Well, you’re absolutely correct. There aren’t any rules around here that say I can’t do more than one update in a week, so here we are.

If you haven’t read this week’s first update Many Numbers, Much Wow, here is a link. You’ll want to go read that to be up to speed for this update.


I wanted to do part 2 for this as a way of continuing this conversation in somewhat real-time. After writing Part 1 I kept working on this idea of data vis specifically for lab results.

You may remember at the end of that update that I wasn’t totally happy with my way of displaying these results. For one thing, the scale was strange and hard to understand at a glance. For another, the context was difficult to ascertain just from looking at those numbers. For a third, the sheer size of the design was very large. While it doesn’t seem like it from the screenshots, the block would take up nearly the whole width of the content area within HealthcareOS.

Not a good solution.

So here’s where I went:

This option was relatively the same but just made the scales identical. This already helps a lot in helping a clinician understand where these different pieces of information are in relation to each other. But we’re still missing several key pieces of information here. Additionally, I didn’t really like listing out 30-205 on each scale. Is every 5 markers really necessary? What additional context does it give that the number in the actual blue tick gives? Well, not a whole lot.

So in true, Antoine de Saint-Exupery style, I removed all the numbers.

Ahhhh, now we’re starting to get somewhere.

While the relational issue is still there, now we’ve created a more streamlined way of digesting these numbers without overwhelming our users. We provide a few key pieces of information very quickly. The type of data, the data point, and the reference range. We even have additional space for numbers that are outside of this range. Additionally, this design relies on the relative scale of the inner block so that theoretically it can be placed in (nearly) any sized container so that it can live in multiple different contexts. We could even potentially improve this by creating different sized “range blocks” (that dark gray bar) inside for different scales. So the 120-200 block could be smaller and further to the right than the 30-150 block. But can this be improved more? What about if a number is too high or low?

Now the gears are really starting to click in here. Not only do we maintain the relative size and scope of the visualization but we’ve added some indicators that help distinguish the items that require the clinician’s immediate attention. By using red and yellow to indicate abnormal values the clinician can see exactly which items do need their attention. Further we can see that a value outside the normal range still fits within the visuzliation and scope.

But what might this look like more in context of our app?

One of the things I’ve discussed in the past is the need for clinicians to have control over how information is displayed. This means giving them the ability to hide and show content on the screen. Here we’ve placed our visualization in a card-like component that takes up a minimal amount of space and each of the “sub-results” is collapsible.

I can hear you now. “But Robert, the numbers still appear all over the place” and I would agree with you. I imagine we’ll keep exloring how these scales could adjust to illustrate relation differences, however, I’m not entirely sure that that is the main point. I would imagine that getting a clear understanding of each number and whether it is low or high and how that relates to other health factors is more important.

I will concede that this is only four items out of the 20ish on the original results sheet. So we still need to consider that length. Hwever, I do think that this is going in a much better direction.

This is a much more concise and reusable way to display this type of information for clinicians and (I believe) would give them the control, context, and information they need without overwhelming them.

Project Alloy is a passion project started in 2017 by Robert Floyd, a Savannah-based product designer. Project Alloy aims to redefine what the EHR is and how it functions.
You can find more information at alloyhealthcare.org
Subscribe to make sure you never miss an update.