LifeLines for Visualizing Patient Records
(click on icon to view full screen)
See also our
other more recent projects on visualization of temporal data
Related HCIL page:
Juvenile Justice Project (94-96), i.e. the original project where LifeLines was "born".
Related HCIL workshops:
Personal Histories: a Workshop (July 21-22, 1997)
Medical Devices Workshop: Increasing Patient Healthcare Participation (June
Visual Exploration of Electronic Health Records (May 30, 2008);
and many more, e.g.
(2014) Workshop on Exploring Temporal Patterns in Electronic Health Record Data
(Thursday, May 29, 2014)
Computerized medical records pose tremendous problems to system developers.
Infrastructure and privacy issues need to be resolved before physicians
can even start using the records. Non-intrusive hardware is required for
physicians to do their work (e.g. interview patients) away from their desk.
But all the efforts to solve these problems will only succeed if appropriate
attention is also given to the user interface design. Long lists to scroll,
clumsy searches, endless menus and lengthy dialogs will lead to user rejection.
But techniques are being developed to summarize, filter and present large
amounts of information, leading us to believe that rapid access to needed
data is possible with careful design.
In the past project for the
Maryland Department of Juvenile Services we started developing a new technique
called Life-Lines to visualize personal history records. We later worked
with IBM Watson Research Center and Kaiser Permanente Colorado to extend the technique to medical records.
LifeLines provides a general visualization environment for personal histories.
A one screen overview of the record using timelines provides direct access
to the data. For a patient record, medical problems, hospitalization and
medications can be represented as horizontal lines, while icons represent
discrete events such as physician consultations, progress notes or tests.
Line color and thickness can illustrate relationships or significance.
Rescaling tools and filters allow users to focus on part of the information,
revealing more details.
LifeLines can: 1) reduce the chances of missing information, 2) facilitate
the spotting of anomalies and trends 3) streamline the access to details
(as LifeLines act as large menus) and 4) remain simple and tailorable to
We believe that LifeLines have applicability to a number of the health
Examples of commercial systems that have applied some of the principles demonstrated in the Lifelines prototypes:
1) The Wand Timeline view of a patient record in Allscript’s ambulatory EHR iPad application.
Used with permission of Allscripts.
2) HealthTronics (UroChartEHR example)
3) iSALUS EHR (see also the nice Vitals screen)
Plaisant, Assistant Research Scientist
Professor Computer Science
Jia Li, Graduate Student Computer Science
Anne Rose, Faculty Research Assistant
Dan Heller, Undergraduate Student
Richard Mushlin, IBM Watson Research Center
Aaron Snyder, Kaiser Permanente Colorado
Partha Ghosh, Graduate
Sponsors and Partners:
The work on LifeLines was originally supported by the State of
Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice (94-96). In 97 and 98 HCIL received
some support from the University of Maryland (CMPS) to work on medical records in collaboration with IBM as part of the
IBM SUR program which provided equipment to the University. Ben Shneiderman also received an IBM faculty award, allowing us to explore how LifeLines could also be used in ebusiness and other applications.
HealthInfoDesign Resources on design and medical informatics.