Presenting Lab Test Results in a More Visual Way – Lessons and Inspirations?

Today’s post isn’t strictly about Lean, but I was reminded by a reader to mention something really cool that I saw in Wired Magazine late last year. In the Lean methodology, we focus a lot on “visual management” of processes and information (or “visuality” as Gwen Galsworth calls it).

Wired had a design contest and article on “The Blood Test Gets a Makeover” that’s worth checking out – I bet it will prompt some interesting ideas for your lab or for your organization, regardless of what you do.

Lab results are, to many, a pretty boring thing. And the lab results printouts are beyond boring – something like this (the next two photos posted with permission from “David McCandless @  informationisbeautiful.net“):


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How much more effective would the report be if it A) looked better and B) communicated more/better information? Like this:


How much better is that?  Not just prettier, but more effective. It’s actually readable and understandable by a layperson. I’ve seen hospital labs do similar work (not as pretty) to make lab results more readable for the “internal customer,” the pathologist. A little design can go a long way…

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Check out the full Wired Report with multiple examples here.

What does that make me think of? It makes me think that sometimes a little bit of thoughtful design can make things WAY better, whether it is:

  • The design of physical workspaces
  • The design of workflow or standardized work
  • Wayfaring signs in hospitals

It’s not EASY to make this little effort, I’m sure it’s quite hard. It requires involving lots of stakeholders, getting the input of patients and others – not just doing the quick and easy thing. It means DESIGNING things, not just letting them evolve (such as that boring, staid, and hard-to-read lab report).

What does it make you think of? What can you do to design a better workplace that works better for patients and staff members?


Note: I will be at the Society for Health Systems and HIMSS conferences in Orlando, Friday and Saturday (SHS) and Monday and Tuesday (HIMSS). Let me know if you will be there. With HIMSS, I will be a special guest at the FormFast booth, come and see us.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

2 Comments

  1. Daniela says

    This actually reminds me first off about design of pill bottles that are easier to use and even start to inform health back, like the bottles they use at Target, which made a huge splash a few years ago, or Glowcaps.

    Design of physical space and wayfinding are definitely important in hospitals, they are intimidating places if you’re not used to them and can’t find your way around.

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