Friday, September 4, 2009

Cool Technology of the Week

Before I became the CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess, I was the Executive Director of the CareGroup Center for Quality and Value, responsible for dashboards and business intelligence for BIDMC and several other hospitals. Building dashboards is challenging. Data must be acquired from multiple sources, cleaned up, normalized, and analyzed. Displaying data in a form that is actionable takes talent, such as per the work of Edward Tufte

Analyzing community health data provides policymakers with guidance to prioritize funding and public programs. The Healthy Communities Institute has developed a set of visual dashboards that are my cool technology of the week. Check out

and click on See all Indicators.

You'll find some amazing data on the environment, disease prevalence, safety, and education with speedometer-like gauges.

Marin County has a great environment and quality of life, but does have issues with drug and alcohol use.

Having community snapshots like these for every county in America would make choosing a healthy place to live much easier. Sites like Sperling's Best Places provide cost of living, schools, crime, and climate info, but do not really describe the lifestyle and attitudes toward health in each locale.

Dashboards for healthy living on the web - that's cool.


Unknown said...

The Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC's) have performed a substantial amount of work in the area of quality reporting and dashboards. Take a look at the dashboard system called Cockpit that the Indiana Primary Health Care Association has developed:

Jack Shaffer
CIO - Community Health Network of WV

Bernz said...

For people who want to build their own digital dashboards in a not-so-expensive way: is an open source business intelligence suite. Has a very steep learning curve, but once you get going on it, you can make dashboards from all sorts of data-sources. is a scripting language that sits on top of Java. Used for expressing visualization (and for learning the basics of programming). It's quick to learn and once you learn it, you can tie it into many apps and provide many kinds of meaningful visualizations. O'Reilly has a book on it ("Visualizing Data").

When it comes to actually pulling data out of your systems so that you can put a dashboard on top of it, I like Talend or Jitterbit. Both are sort of data-aggregators that perform ETL/data quality.

Rick said...

Thanks for pointing us to this initiative -- timely, because in our work ( we are beginning to explore "tools" to make social determinants of health specific, relevant and actionable.

Some of these tools use sophisticated data modeling and analytics; others are grassroots efforts that engage citizens in qualitative community assessments. (Glad to share examples, and would love to hear about more from you and your readers.)

I am fascinated by the maps I have seen. At the same time, I wonder how these connect to specific action and meaningful, lasting change. A significant benefit of the grassroots approach is that it gets to the heart of the matter, which is to create engaged participation in seeing current conditions -- and possibilities for change.

Rick Brush

GreenLeaves said...

John, I see that you have taken the next step in controling comments. Good for the quality, sad that it is necessary.

Michael E. Driscoll said...

It's a nice and promising first step -- but it would be nice to see these information dashboards take their aesthetic cues from Stephen Few (Information Dashboard Design), Edward Tufte (The Visualization of Quantitative Information), and others.

Rainbow color meters are the dashboard equivalent of HTML's blink tag. said...

Thanks for the mention! We at the Whatcom (county, WA) Coalition for Healthy Communities were the first HCI test site. FYI, the local hospital and health department were key in developing our indicators project, and continue to participate as sponsors, "content experts", etc.

We're happy to chat with anyone interested in how we're using the indicators project to support specific action to improve community health. Also, using indicators for social change was the theme of the recent Community Indicators Consortium conference. I recommend that professional community for anyone who wants to continue these conversations:

Elizabeth Jennings, Executive Director
Whatcom Coalition for Healthy Communities
Twitter: @WhatcomCounts