Information Design Watch

January 30, 2010, 9:23 pm

Real-Time Bus Location

By Henry Woodbury

LMA Shuttle Map

Using GPS and Google Maps, MASCO — the Medical Academic and Scientific Community Organization, Inc., of Boston, Massachusetts — offers this elegant real-time bus map for its shuttle service. The map shows buses in service, their location, and their direction of travel.

For folks waiting at the bus stop, the service is accessible via web-enabled phone at http://shuttles.masco.org/m.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Information Design, Maps, Technology, Visual Explanation, Web Interface Design

January 29, 2010, 4:21 pm

Why Hospital Data is Growing: Genetic Testing, EMRs, and the “-Ologies”

By Lisa Agustin

As a UX consultant with clients in the healthcare arena, I’m not unfamiliar with the kinds of data needed by employees on a hospital intranet, or by current and prospective patients on a public site.   But I’m usually more concerned about the best way for people to find this information, rather than where it’s coming from and how it gets managed.

So I was especially interested in the Global Information Industry Center at UCSD’s eye-opening report on data growth in hospitals.  (If the group’s name sounds familiar, these are the same folks who recently concluded that Americans consumed 3.6 zettabytes of information per day in 2008).  Eleven healthcare IT executives (nine from major medical research-focused medical centers and two from medical insurance organizations) were asked to estimate their future rates of growth and identify the reasons behind it.

Author Jack Robert identifies the following as the six main drivers of growth:

  • Image Technology. The number of images generated by each “ology” (radiology, cardiology, etc.) is growing both locally and centrally.  The ability to create thinner and denser slices of organs makes for huge images; a single slice can be as big as 1 gigabyte.
  • Web 2.0 Applications. Web-based software that enables a medical team to provide care collaboratively is a growing trend.  An example of this: medication list management, where every care team member has the ability to list, delete, or annotate a patient’s list of medicines.
  • Clinical Decision Support for Physicians. Physicians are treating more patients, and thus have less time to spend with each one.  As a result, they expect instant, anytime access to data and specialty applications to help in their decision making process. This means a heavy reliance on electronic medical records for patients (see next).
  • The Electronic Medical Record (EMR). The number of hospitals and physician offices using this is currently small, but wider adoption is expected in the coming years for two reasons: the realization that the current healthcare system is too expensive, and the federal stimulus incentives that will be given to hospitals and clinicians who demonstrate “meaningful use” of EMRs by 2011.  The what-if scenario of an EMR for every person in the U.S. is staggering in terms of data size.
  • Health Networks. These community initiatives will connect physicians, hospitals, health centers, labs, and patients electronically, building upon the capabilities of EMRs by collecting information from multiple medical sites, processing it, and providing it to physician offices.
  • Genetic Testing.  Genetic testing for high-risk patients will serve as another potentially huge source of  new data, given that “there are now 2500 diseases for which there is a genetic test.”

The main problem with this growth is how best to manage it all.  Much of the data is decentralized (especially in the case of research data), difficult to backup due to the increasing size of databases, and replicated by default (e.g., the  processing of a blood workup means information is duplicated and stored in multiple places).   But while there is no easy answer on how to address the exponential growth of medical data, the one hope is that the end result is improved and more efficient care for all patients.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Business, Technology

January 20, 2010, 6:32 pm

What Price Content?

By Henry Woodbury

The New York Times has announced that it will initiate a pay-for-access model starting in early 2011. The general framework is to give visitors a limited number of free articles each month before invoking a flat fee for unlimited access. Print subscribers will also have unlimited access.

While The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times both charge for access, the Times is significantly more popular:

NYTimes.com is by far the most popular newspaper site in the country, with more than 17 million readers a month in the United States, according to Nielsen Online, and analysts say it is easily the leader in advertising revenue, as well.

While analysts point out that this gives the Times ample resources to adjust their scheme if they start losing readership, the Times‘ revenue problems reflect a broader reality. Yet if the newspaper does succeed in setting up a successful micropayment model, other media sites will follow.

Looking forward, I can easily imagine the Times using the leverage of its popularity and reputation to cut deals with major ISPs. People already pay for different packages of cable television channels. The same broadband providers could apply the same business model to charge for a package of subscription web sites. If it works for The New York Times, ESPN will follow.

The low-hanging fruit is the smart phone market. For a few nickels a month, Verizon or AT&T can provide the subscription tied into the app that accesses it.

UPDATE: The Times offers a Q&A. Most interesting is their determination to accept incoming links from other web sites:

Q. What about posting articles to Facebook and other social media? Would friends without a subscription then not be able to view an article that I think is relevant for them? — Julie, Pinole CA

A. Yes, they could continue to view articles. If you are coming to NYTimes.com from another Web site and it brings you to our site to view an article, you will have access to that article and it will not count toward your allotment of free ones.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Business, Technology

January 20, 2010, 10:33 am

The Known Universe

By Lisa Agustin

Check out “The Known Universe,” a stunning animation developed by the American Museum of Natural History that takes the viewer on a journey from The Himalayas to the afterglow of the Big Bang and back again.  The video is part of the Rubin Museum of Art’s exhibition “Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to the Evolving Universe,” on view until May 10, 2010.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Visual Explanation

January 12, 2010, 3:42 pm

Death by Aggregation

By Henry Woodbury

In an interview for his book You Are Not a Gadget (scroll down) technologist Jason Lanier looks around and sees Internet dystopia:

Web 2.0 collectivism has killed the individual voice. It is increasingly disheartening to write about any topic in depth these days, because people will only read what the first link from a search engine directs them to, and that will typically be the collective expression of the Wikipedia. Or, if the issue is contentious, people will congregate into partisan online bubbles in which their views are reinforced….

Web 2.0 adherents might respond to these objections by claiming that I have confused individual expression with intellectual achievement. This is where we find our greatest point of disagreement. I am amazed by the power of the collective to enthrall people to the point of blindness. Collectivists adore a computer operating system called LINUX, for instance, but it is really only one example of a descendant of a 1970s technology called UNIX. If it weren’t produced by a collective, there would be nothing remarkable about it at all.

Meanwhile, the truly remarkable designs that couldn’t have existed 30 years ago, like the iPhone, all come out of “closed” shops where individuals create something and polish it before it is released to the public. Collectivists confuse ideology with achievement.

At The New York Times, John Tierney takes Lanier’s critique and runs with it — in a different direction. Where Lanier seeks to change the software technologies that undermine individual content creators, Tierney questions the net culture of intellectual property theft:

In theory, public officials could deter piracy by stiffening the penalties, but they’re aware of another crucial distinction between online piracy and house burglary: There are a lot more homeowners than burglars, but there are a lot more consumers of digital content than producers of it.

UPDATE: Glenn Harlan Reynolds of Instapundit reviews You Are Not a Gadget in today’s Wall Street Journal. While agreeing in part with Lanier’s critique of the failure of the aggregate model to reward creative individuals, he points out that social media applications are popular because they are fun – and not just for geeks:

Mr. Lanier is nostalgic for that era [the 1990s] and its homemade Web pages, the personalized outposts that have largely been replaced by the more standardized formats of Facebook and MySpace. The aesthetics of these newer options might be less than refined, but tens of millions of people are able to express themselves in ways that were unimaginable even a decade ago. And let’s face it: Those personal Web pages of the 1990s are hardly worth reviving. It’ll be fine with me if I never see another blinking banner towed across the screen by a clip-art biplane.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Books and Articles, Technology

January 12, 2010, 11:13 am

Historic New England Centennial Site Now Live

By Kirsten Robinson

Historic New England has launched a Centennial microsite to celebrate their 100th year of preserving New England’s history and to highlight centennial projects that they are creating in conjunction with community partners throughout the New England states. Key site features include an events calendar, photo galleries and slide shows, and video oral histories.

Historic New England Centennial oral history page

Historic New England selected Dynamic Diagrams to create the user experience for the site (research, information architecture, visual design, and XHTML and CSS coding). We worked with our development partners to implement a Plone content management system (CMS) that provides Historic New England — for the first time — with complete control to create their own pages.

The Centennial site is also a preview of things to come. Watch this space for a future announcement of Historic New England’s redesigned and enhanced main web site.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Dynamic Diagrams News, Implementation, Information Architecture, User Experience, Web Interface Design