Data display format and hospital ward reports: effects of different presentations on data interpretation

Maria Lucia Specchia, Gualtiero Ricciardi, Roberta Siliquini, Giuseppe La Torre, A Agostinelli, G Liguori, A Parlato, N Nante, D Di Thiene, A Boccia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


BACKGROUND: Graphs are often used in medical communication, both in clinical practice and health management. They can help the processing of quantitative information but may also contribute to drawing wrong conclusions. The aim of the survey is to study the graphical perception of the data at the management level and its possible effects, showing how some criteria of appraisal of a phenomenon are influenced by the graphical format. METHODS: One hundred and five medical doctors and health direction professionals of hospitals in Naples, Rome, Siena and Turin were interviewed. Four different graphs or table related to the same hypothetical data on average hospital stay in the period January 2000 to September 2003 were shown to participants, and their impressions were recorded. RESULTS: Less than one-fourth of the participants understood that the data set was the same for the different diagrams. The process of understanding is mostly correlated with being a director, having a degree in medicine and working in central-northern cities. The table seems easier for interpretation (98.1%), more suitable (84.8%), more used (92.4%) and more pleasant than other data presentation. On the other hand radar format had worse results in all questions. CONCLUSIONS: The choice of a graphical format may influence the understanding of data. Further research is needed in order to sustain the improvement of medical and health professionals' knowledge in the display data format
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-4
Number of pages4
JournalEur J Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • data display format
  • data interpretation
  • hospital ward reports


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