Visually enhance key information

Healthcare visits are often brief, making efficient review and synthesis of PRO data key. Visual cues can alert a provider to important aspects of a report. Appropriately executed, these enhancements increase an ePRO report’s effectiveness.

Strategy A
Prioritize key PRO information by using various visual elements (effects) to reduce cognitive load

Using visual cues (e.g., bolding, symbols, and color) can direct a provider’s attention to important, urgent, or other primary PRO information. Visual cues may be used within ePRO reports to draw attention to:

  • scores outside of a target range
  • severity of scores
  • scores requiring attention and potential clinical action
  • a significant change in scores

Enterprise systems (i.e., software applications designed to work broadly, not just in individual settings) should promote visual cue standardization to facilitate common understanding across the health organization. However, some exceptions may be necessary at the individual health unit level (e.g., the healthcare setting) to accommodate specific contextual nuances.

Some strategies for applying visual cues to showcase key information are described in Table 4F.

Table 4F: Strategy considerations for applying visual cues
Strategy Consideration PRO tips
Color: hue and value

Color is used to indicate the severity of PRO scores, to designate significant changes in score (via change in color), to provide a visual alert, or to indicate a patient’s status in relation to the PRO assessment.

The use of color should be judicious and attuned to potential challenges:

  • Traffic light colors (green, yellow, red) have been used with PROs to designate severity. While these color hues are familiar to most American audiences, other cultures may apply different meanings to them.
  • People with color vision impairment may have difficulty interpreting color, which limits the utility of color as a meaningful visual signal for certain users.
  • Color cues may become confusing or meaningless to the user when overused as an indicator to serve multiple purposes on the same ePRO report (e.g., using color to designate score severity, timing of PRO collection, improving versus worsening score, and hierarchy indicators on one screen).
Bolding Bolding is most often used in ePRO reporting to enhance key text-based information that is part of an explanation; it may also be used for alerts or to set off ePRO report titles and subtitles.
Size of text or pictures Larger text and pictures or graphs generally draw attention and signify more important information on ePRO reports and dashboards.
Annotation Annotations are most often used in ePRO reporting to provide qualitative terms or explanations that complement quantitative data and are used to facilitate understanding and provide alerts.
Arrows Arrows generally point to key elements of the PRO data. The number of arrows used should be minimized.
Shapes and symbols Various shapes and symbols may be used to differentiate information, such as pre- and post-intervention PRO scores. Caution is needed to avoid the challenge of providing too many varying shapes and to ensure shape representation does not result in screen clutter and confusion.
In-text hovers Explanations may be useful when providers are unfamiliar with certain aspects of a PRO or need reminders (e.g., how PRO scores are calculated, what are PRO benchmark scores). While useful to access when needed, this type of information is subordinate to direct PRO score information on ePRO reports. In-text hovers provide a means to subordinate these explanations, making them available only when a user places a cursor over a key word so that the explanation does not consume prime screen space.

Figure 4P (i–iv) demonstrates that multiple forms of visual enhancement may be used in ePRO reports.

Figure 4P (i–iv): ePRO visual enhancements

Figure 4P (i): Illustrations for color and annotations

Graphic showing a patient's scores for three measures, shown on colored scales, with a marker for the score.

Figure 4P (ii): Illustrations of use of color, annotation, and visual guidelines

Graph showing a patient's urinary score over time compared to patients like them, using a different color for the two lines along with shading indicating the pre-treatment time period.

Figure 4P (iii): Illustrations of the use of color and symbols

Graphic explaining a patient's chance of being helped by surgery that shows a grid of 100 person icons with 50 shaded to mark those helped by surgery.

Figure 4P (iv): Illustrations of the use of symbols

Graph showing status over time, using symbols to indicate the status: a sun for doing better, a cloud for doing worse, etc.

The general challenge with introducing multiple visual enhancements in one report is to use the enhancements as complementary elements and avoid cluttering the screen in ways that create either visual or interpretive overload. Figure 4Q depicts the following goals to consider in making visual enhancements choices: Ensure that key information is clearly recognizable, may be easily interpreted, and appealing (i.e., beautification). Of these, in a choice situation, aspects of beautification may be best to forego, if there is a danger that key information may not easily be found or understood as a result of additional visual enhancements.

Figure 4Q: Visually enhancing key information
Graphic showing a number of ways to enhance key information, and some resulting examples.

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