A visual analytics approach for pattern-recognition in patient-generated data


Objective: To develop and test a visual analytics tool to help clinicians identify systematic and clinically meaningful patterns in patient-generated data (PGD) while decreasing perceived information overload. Methods: Participatory design was used to develop Glucolyzer, an interactive tool featuring hierarchical clustering and a heatmap visualization to help registered dietitians (RDs) identify associative patterns between blood glucose levels and per-meal macronutrient composition for individuals with type 2 diabetes (T2DM). Ten RDs participated in a within-subjects experiment to compare Glucolyzer to a static logbook format. For each representation, participants had 25 minutes to examine 1 month of diabetes self-monitoring data captured by an individual with T2DM and identify clinically meaningful patterns. We compared the quality and accuracy of the observations generated using each representation. Results: Participants generated 50% more observations when using Glucolyzer (98) than when using the logbook format (64) without any loss in accuracy (69% accuracy vs 62%, respectively, p = .17). Participants identified more observations that included ingredients other than carbohydrates using Glucolyzer (36% vs 16%, p = .027). Fewer RDs reported feelings of information overload using Glucolyzer compared to the logbook format. Study participants displayed variable acceptance of hierarchical clustering. Conclusions: Visual analytics have the potential to mitigate provider concerns about the volume of self-monitoring data. Glucolyzer helped dietitians identify meaningful patterns in self-monitoring data without incurring perceived information overload. Future studies should assess whether similar tools can support clinicians in personalizing behavioral interventions that improve patient outcomes.

Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association: JAMIA