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Visual analogies, not graphs, increase patients' comprehension of changes in their health status.

TitleVisual analogies, not graphs, increase patients' comprehension of changes in their health status.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsTurchioe MReading, Grossman LV, Myers AC, Baik D, Goyal P, Creber RMMasterso
JournalJ Am Med Inform Assoc
Date Published2020 May 01

 OBJECTIVES: Patients increasingly use patient-reported outcomes (PROs) to self-monitor their health status. Visualizing PROs longitudinally (over time) could help patients interpret and contextualize their PROs. The study sought to assess hospitalized patients' objective comprehension (primary outcome) of text-only, non-graph, and graph visualizations that display longitudinal PROs.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted a clinical research study in 40 hospitalized patients comparing 4 visualization conditions: (1) text-only, (2) text plus visual analogy, (3) text plus number line, and (4) text plus line graph. Each participant viewed every condition, and we used counterbalancing (systematic randomization) to control for potential order effects. We assessed objective comprehension using the International Organization for Standardization protocol. Secondary outcomes included response times, preferences, risk perceptions, and behavioral intentions.

RESULTS: Overall, 63% correctly comprehended the text-only condition and 60% comprehended the line graph condition, compared with 83% for the visual analogy and 70% for the number line (P = .05) conditions. Participants comprehended the visual analogy significantly better than the text-only (P = .02) and line graph (P = .02) conditions. Of participants who comprehended at least 1 condition, 14% preferred a condition that they did not comprehend. Low comprehension was associated with worse cognition (P < .001), lower education level (P = .02), and fewer financial resources (P = .03).

CONCLUSIONS: The results support using visual analogies rather than text to display longitudinal PROs but caution against relying on graphs, which is consistent with the known high prevalence of inadequate graph literacy. The discrepancies between comprehension and preferences suggest factors other than comprehension influence preferences, and that future researchers should assess comprehension rather than preferences to guide presentation decisions.

Alternate JournalJ Am Med Inform Assoc
PubMed ID31999316
Grant ListR00 NR016275 / NR / NINR NIH HHS / United States
Health Informatics
Faculty Publication