User Centered Design of Visual Analytics and its Applications in Healthcare

Open Access
Yang, Hui
Graduate Program:
Industrial Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 15, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Soundar Kumara, Dissertation Advisor
  • Ling Rothrock, Dissertation Advisor
  • Soundar Kumara, Committee Chair
  • Ling Rothrock, Committee Chair
  • Andris Freivalds, Committee Member
  • Istvan Albert, Committee Member
  • Ravi Singareddy, Special Member
  • User Centered Design
  • Visual Analytics
  • Information Visualization
  • Healthcare Informatics
In the era of big data, healthcare practitioners are increasingly generating and analyzing data. The huge volume of data provides opportunities for evidence based medicine to answer research and practical questions, and for individuals to make better informed, smarter decision. Yet, making sense of massive healthcare datasets remains a fundamental challenge. In order to make inferences on the data, an effective visual representations of the data is needed. We propose visualization as a means to derive inferences on healthcare data. Design of visual analytics tools, therefore, becomes important in the healthcare domain. Healthcare is a broad area involving users with high variation in roles, expertise, and background. The diverse characteristics of users and their shifting contexts makes it a challenge to process and to present healthcare data in appropriate visual representations that is directly relevant to the analytics tasks. We advocate using the User-Centered Design (UCD) approach in designing and developing visual analytics tools in healthcare. The core research question is how a user centered approach should be adopted in designing visual analytics tools. We address the question by bringing the user centered design process and visual analytics process together, and by applying interdisciplinary methods, such as data mining, information visualization and network analytics. In particular, the dissertation looks to three studies in the healthcare domain where practitioners follow UCD to design visual analytics in healthcare domain. We emphasis the role of user involvement in the entire iterative design lifecycle. The users spanning these studies include patients, physicians, nanomaterial scientists, biomedical professionals, and healthcare policy makers. The three studies are: 1. Developing a visual web-based tool called VisOSA to interpret and explore medical records of patients with sleep apnea. For physicians, the ClinicView provides an interactive tool to have an overview of the entire medical record of patients including anomalies, and therefore help with generating research hypothesis. For patients, the PatientView allows the lay individual - without any medical background - to understand their health conditions under treatment at a glance. We also defined medical dashboard in this study. We conducted a supporting quantitative behavioral research to examine the effect of multiple monitors on people’s performance. Results suggested that the medical dashboard needs to be arranged as that the most important information is in a single screen. 2. Studying the nanomaterial environmental impact (NEI) is a critical task in nano-health and safety. The information visualization module for NEIMiner is a visual analytic tool that can efficiently query and present large-scale bibliography meta-data, NEI characterizations and nanomaterial toxicity. It supports nanomaterial scientists and analysts to explore the concepts and relationships in studying nanomaterial toxicity and its impact on health. 3. Translating research findings into effective clinical care is another overwhelming task. VATS is a scalable multi-scale visual analytical tool for advancing translational sciences. The system integrates the data of National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS) funded projects and publications from NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORTER) and PubMed, and helps healthcare policy makers to understand the big picture of translational science and to evaluate the impact of NCATS funded projects through publicly available data sources. Through these studies, we discuss how innovative visual analytics techniques and capabilities with help users understand and act on various type of data. The results and applications demonstrate what purposes visualizations are used for each problem, how the design and development team make decisions around datasets, and the different visual representations healthcare practitioners use to explore and gain insight of data. The research contributions are (1) a joint model of UCD and visual analytics process that overcomes the design challenges, (2) a justification of how existing data mining and visualization techniques can be usefully combined to support analytics task in healthcare, (3) the approaches to integrate and enrich the dataset, and turn the data into reliable and provable information, (4) the visual encoding and interaction mechanisms to present complex information, (5) three visual analytics system built are beneficial to healthcare community and society. The design guidelines and recommendations generated from these studies are applicable to various domains. We hope this work inspire more innovations and conversations at the intersection of user centered design and visual analytics.