Why Dashboards Aren’t Always the Answer

by Trevor Strome on October 21, 2010

When used appropriately, dashboards are essential tools in the management of a healthcare organization (HCO). Dashboards can provide, at a quick glance, an overview of an HCO’s key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine progress towards meeting (or maintaining) strategic and/or tactical goals and objectives.

Dashboards are not appropriate in all cases, however. Despite being the “sexy” way to communicate an HCO’s performance metrics, dashboards are but one possible approach. Three reasons dashboards may not be the right solution for a particular performance management issue are as follows:

1. Information is not appropriate for dashboard display. Not all information required to manage an HCO can be boiled down into well-defined metrics. Many process improvement initiatives require information more in-depth than is feasible to display on dashboards. Sometimes the display of sophisticated statistical analysis does not lend itself to a dashboard application.  Overall,  information that is not strategic in nature or cannot be summarized by performance metrics should not be made into (or placed onto) a dashboard.

2. End-users of information cannot access dashboards. When information needs to be communicated widely throughout an HCO, it may not be feasible to provide widespread access to computerized dashboards. (For example, many clinical staff regularly work on workstations that are able to access only their clinical applications). For wide distribution of HCO performance information, posting reports on a central “quality board” available for all stakeholders to view may be a better alternative that results in more people viewing the information. (Stay tuned for a future post on best practices for designing your HCO’s quality board!)

3. Requirement for data is not-long term. If the data is a one-off request, will not be monitored over time, or is not critical to the performance of an HCO, it probably doesn’t need to real estate on your corporate dashboard. Perhaps a simple report distributed on an ad-hoc basis to those who require the information is a more effective approach.

Dashboards have quickly become everybody’s favorite data application in healthcare. Tools to build dashboards are becoming ever more sophisticated and easy to use. As always, it is important to ensure a match between the end-users’ data needs, available (and best) methods to represent the data, and resources available to build the tools. It may be that the time and effort to build a dashboard may not be required when a simple report will do, or if another information dissemination method is more appropriate.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

aparadekto October 26, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Hey, I can’t view your site properly within Opera, I actually hope you look into fixing this.


Trevor Strome October 26, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Thanks for your note. I will look into any incompatibilities my site has with Opera and will see what I can do to fix them.


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