In the healthcare industry, marketing professionals and strategic growth planners are tasked with the important job of creating stories out of data—the art of visualization. You must take rows upon rows of data and transform it into an easily digestible format—a skill that when executed properly, is extremely valuable. Anyone can create a bar graph, but the ability to create visualizations that are meaningful and insightful is an art form.
Visualization Best Practices
Creating visualizations gives you the opportunity to play the role of data detective, uncovering patterns and transforming that into a story. As the data detective, you become the expert with the knowledge obtained in the process of analysis. When creating presentations, it can become difficult to keep in mind that your audience could be getting some of this information for the first time.
The key to creating the best visualizations is taking a step back to put yourself in the audience’s shoes.
The main goal should be to elevate your audience as quickly as possible to your expert level. Failure to take the extra time to ensure presentation pieces are developed with your audience in mind could lead to misinterpretation and uncertainty of the information. You want to make sure the information you present is reliable, transparent, meaningful and informative. With just a few helpful best practices, you can increase the efficiency of your organization through data visualization:
Best Practice #1
If a question arises as to whether or not you should include a label or note on any graph, table, or slide—the answer is yes. Clear explanation about your visualization will be helpful to the readers of your presentation, both as it's being shared for the first time but also when it's reviewed at a later date.
- Labels, legends, titles, time frames, sources, caveats, and notes are vitally important for clear interpretation.
- Presentations are oftentimes shared across departments and you, as the creator of the visualization, may not be able to walk through the presentation with the second audience in as much detail, or at all.
- The audience should not have to assume what they are looking at. Without proper notations, you risk the possibility of the “telephone” game effect where intentions are lost as your work gets passed along.
Best Practice #2
- Lead your audience to the most important information.
- Bolding text, highlighting fields, and color-coding can go a long way to helping your audience save time scanning around to figure out what is most important.
- Draw their attention to where the critical information is within each slide.
- It may not be practical to repeat data sources or timeframes on every slide, and if that is the case, ensure when these important tidbits are presented that they are nearly impossible to notice
Best Practice #3
- Don’t limit yourself to the standards.
- Within an organization, there is often a “standard” way to look at certain market aspects such as market share, payor mix, and trends. Having a generally accepted way to view data is important. However, this can also prevent analysts from presenting data in the most useful manner.
- It is important to keep in mind that when transforming data, the goal is to create audience understanding. Encourage yourself to be creative and trust your instincts. When in doubt of which visualization you believe is more meaningful, include both. As you work your way through creating the rest of the presentation and are doing final touches, you may be able to decide which one helps tell the better story or just keep both
Best Practice #4
Make sure the information is easily digestible.
- Don’t overwhelm your audience with information overload. Simplicity can be underestimated.
- Summary tables don’t get the “oohs” and “aahs” that graphs and maps may get initially, however, they require little interpretation when labeled properly and can be a powerful tool for the team members to reference when moving through presentations.
- No matter what, despite the amount of time you may have to actually present or how much detail the original request required, you can always keep a supplemental section for if/when questions arise or for additional insights you think may be important.
- Think about how much time you have with the audience and how much context they need.
Below are examples of some visualizations that apply the best practices listed above:
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Unique Audience Interests
Plenty of people can create a bar chart, but what sets apart good visualizations from the great ones are those created with your audience in mind—not a one-size fits all. What is important to executive leadership may be different from the marketing team. Visualizations should also differ based on your audience’s familiarity with data. A group that is well versed on the local market and its trends can handle more complex visualizations that dive into the details. This same group may be more interested in quarterly trends. While the group that is less familiar may require more simple, high-level information to get them acquainted with the market.
Marketers need more detail on the “who” aspect of the data. They need the data translated to a format that turns numbers into people. While it is important for them to know high-level market trends, such as a loss in cardiology market share, it is more important for them to understand who those lost cardiology patients are—where do they live, how are they insured, how do they spend their free time, what is their age range, where do they shop, and who are they utilizing for care.
Executives and Upper Management want the bottom line—how am I performing? Are we staying on track with our goals? It is important for this audience to be able to understand what their position means in the grand scheme of things. They want to know where improvements have been made and where is there room to grow. They need the ability to see the significance in the numbers. What does a 3% increase in cardiology market share mean? Helping this audience keep things in perspective to the overall market gives them the most meaning.
Strategists want all of the above and more. They require getting to know the market landscape and then identifying opportunities—the perfect visualizations for this audience is a balancing act between high-level intelligence and details. One of the biggest mistakes people make with visualizations for this group is trying to show too much information at once. It is important to keep in mind that creating visualizations does not necessarily mean everything needs to be color-coded graphs with tables. Visualization is telling a story with data—tables may, at first, come across as boring. But a properly executed summary table will help catapult this audience into the actionable intelligence that matters to them.
The purpose of the visualization should also play a leading role in the execution. What is important to visualize in a product line deep-dive may be too deep for an overall market assessment. Whether the purpose is to present quarterly updates or new findings will also dictate how to best visualize the data.
Overall market assessments should generally stay high-level and be easily translated across multiple departments. The best visualizations for overall market assessments show trended volume shifts. They should demonstrate how you have performed against your competitors as well the market as a whole. For example, for payor mix it not only is important to know that you have 38% commercial payers but also that two years ago it was 41% and your competitor has increased its commercial presence in that same time frame.
Keep these unique audience needs at the forefront of your planning as you develop each data visualization. Tweak and adjust your presentation as needed to make sure you won’t lose the interest of the team you will be speaking to by providing insights that they don’t need.
Keep the End Goal in Mind
When making visualizations, keep in mind what is most important about the data you are sharing. Which datapoint is the most important for your audience:
- The fact that your system provides care to 40% of the market today or that your system used to provide care for 50% of the market? Or perhaps, showing the delta is the most critical data point?
- The fact that your system is a leader in the market, or that your competitor is losing market share quickly?
Whatever the primary takeaway, keep it the main focus of every visualization and every slide within your presentation. Too many details and key points could leave your audience confused or unsure what to do with the information presented. It is your job, as the creator of the visualization presentation, to make sure it is easy for the audience to follow along with the main point and walk away with a clear understanding of the main ideas and how to respond to them.
Creating presentations that visually convey healthcare market data requires a thorough understanding of your audience and thoughtful planning about how to present your main points. By following the pro tips outlined in this post, you will be able to more effectively present your future visualizations and become more adept at knowing how to make adjustments when necessary.
In addition to these suggestions, you may also want to consider onboarding a software tool to aid in creating more effective visualizations. Having a tool specifically designed to create appealing market data visualizations can make it easier for you to create powerful presentations and can open up time for you to focus on the unique needs of the audience you will be meeting with. There are a number of tools on the market that you could consider. To identify the right one for you, start with the following steps:
- Make a list of the visualizations requested of you most frequently and prioritize this list by importance and difficulty of execution
- Survey the software options on the market and determine which would be the most beneficial to your organization and best meet your data visualization needs
- Choose a software solution and put it to work!
Stratasan’s solution to market data visualization is Launch Pathway. Equipped with a tool like Launch Pathway, you’ll be able to upgrade your future presentations and make a bigger impact with your visualizations. Launch Pathway provides mapping functionality that will bring a new perspective to the compelling visuals you need to support your numbers.
Contact Sean Conway for a demonstration today. Sean will demonstrate how Launch Pathway can take your market data visualizations to the next level, allowing you to create presentations you never before thought possible.
Article by Morgan Atkins, Senior Health Strategist for Stratasan.