Detroit Medical Center’s Hospital Data Visualization

Someone sent me a link to an interesting use of data for a hospital data visualization today – the Detroit Medical Center’s Emergency Room wait time dials.

There are a few things that I find interesting about this set of dials. I admit that when I first saw it, I thought it was probably hard-coded and maybe updated with actual data once a month or so, based off some dusty old report that ran – but I think it’s actually much more interesting than that, because if you watch the dials, the times will update with new data as time does on.

So to achieve a real time dashboard such as this (ok, this is sort of a mini-dashboard for customer use, but I think it fits the description), there are a few things that would have to happen:

1. The hospital has to know when a patient arrives – this seems like a little bit of a challenge to track, at least with too much accuracy, because of course it doesn’t take into account the time they spend waiting in line until they are called on to check in. I wonder if that this hospital there is some sort of self check-in that they use as the “start time” for when the patient arrives.

2. They have to know when the patients visit begins (i.e. when they are “picked up”) – This seems a bit easier, because you could just log when the doctor’s visit begins, which they probably have to do for billing purposes anyway.

3. The data has to be synced with an external server in real-time – to be of any real value, this data has to be pretty close to real time, so whatever their patient system is has to be synced up with a server that probably has some web services exposed to give this Adobe Flash component access to the wait times.

I think it’s a great application of using business data to really add value for the customer – and quite a neat implementation of a real-time dashboard. There aren’t too many places I’ve seen this sort of “wait time” shown – but imagine how great it would be if you could do the same thing for restaurants, oil change places, or even individual doctor’s offices. I think more of this sort of thing will be coming in the future.

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