Sunday, September 13, 2009

What if the Medical Record looked like a Nutrition Label?

In one of my first posts, I talk about inadequacies of the EMR's user interface - a paper based approach that does not take advantage of either the power of the computer nor the artistry of information visualization. Around that time, my friend and colleague Dr. Ted Eyton ( told me about someone he had started following who was doing some cool stuff in this area. And she was not some high brow informatics type, simply an artist with a passion. Here is her story:

What if your spouse had a complex medical history and you knew that the standard "medical record" (whether paper or electronic) was simply inept at helping your healthcare providers get the full and complete picture of his/her health. What if you knew that it was full of an overwhelming amount of numbers and facts, was disorganized and inconsistent in its presentation and had many errors scattered throughout. What would you do?

If you are Regina Holiday (, an artist with a husband dying of kidney cancer, you use your talents to help others understand that there may be better ways to visualize medical information. Relatively easy ways to organize data and present it in a graphically pleasing and consistent manner such that the key medical facts are obvious to any healthcare provider (or even to any family member).

Regina has created a mural of her husband’s medical record that resembles the “Nutrition labels” we see on most things we buy in a grocery store. It is a great way to shock our systems in thinking that medical records don’t have to simply be a problem list or a free text narrative of what happened on one day from one viewpoint… take a look below and think how your own medical records might benefit from this type of thinking. Regina's husband Fred died this past summer, but her fight goes on.

Here is a video of Regina painting and talking about the mural and its meaning (note: it goes black after 3 minutes, nothing else comes on):

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