The impact of home care nurses' numeracy and graph literacy on comprehension of visual display information: implications for dashboard design

Dawn Dowding, Jacqueline A Merrill, Nicole Onorato, Yolanda Barrón, Robert J Rosati, David Russell

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Abstract

Objective: To explore home care nurses' numeracy and graph literacy and their relationship to comprehension of visualized data.

Materials and Methods: A multifactorial experimental design using online survey software. Nurses were recruited from 2 Medicare-certified home health agencies. Numeracy and graph literacy were measured using validated scales. Nurses were randomized to 1 of 4 experimental conditions. Each condition displayed data for 1 of 4 quality indicators, in 1 of 4 different visualized formats (bar graph, line graph, spider graph, table). A mixed linear model measured the impact of numeracy, graph literacy, and display format on data understanding.

Results: In all, 195 nurses took part in the study. They were slightly more numerate and graph literate than the general population. Overall, nurses understood information presented in bar graphs most easily (88% correct), followed by tables (81% correct), line graphs (77% correct), and spider graphs (41% correct). Individuals with low numeracy and low graph literacy had poorer comprehension of information displayed across all formats. High graph literacy appeared to enhance comprehension of data regardless of numeracy capabilities.

Discussion and Conclusion: Clinical dashboards are increasingly used to provide information to clinicians in visualized format, under the assumption that visual display reduces cognitive workload. Results of this study suggest that nurses' comprehension of visualized information is influenced by their numeracy, graph literacy, and the display format of the data. Individual differences in numeracy and graph literacy skills need to be taken into account when designing dashboard technology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-182
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Medical Informatics Association : JAMIA
Volume25
Issue number2
Early online date27 Apr 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

Keywords

  • Journal Article

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