Monday, January 04, 2010

Medics grappling with graphs

Graphs at the foot of patients' beds are a staple of cartoons, TV programmes and films but it might be more helpful if they were replaced with writing. Researchers at Edinburgh University presented 35 nurses and doctors from the neonatal intensive care unit in the city's Royal Infirmary with real data from 24 infant patients. The participants had to look at the data and decide what the next course of action should be. The data was presented in the form of a graph, text written by a medical expert and text generated by a computer from the information in the graph. The decisions made after looking at the graph and the computer-generated text were as good as each other but the medical staff made significantly better decisions after reading the text written by a medical expert. The text made no recommendations merely summarising the data on the graphs. It would be very expensive to write the written summaries for all patients but if the computer-generated texts could be improved that might be a cheaper way of improving patient care.

1 comment:

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