Purpose: Transplant center directors and their quality managers are faced with a blizzard of data that must be analyzed and conveyed to key clinical and administrative personnel. Some of this data can be very complex and difficult to represent. Our center, like many others around the country, serves a broad geographic area and a large population. Consequently a need arises to look at data that encompasses the whole state as defined by incremental areas such as counties, or specific counties aggregated into a region. When this level of granularity is introduced into an analysis conventional means of displaying the results can quickly morph into unwieldy tables or charts, and the “take-away” message lost in the jumble.
Conclusions: With dimensions of time, geographic expanse, and vital measures that drive a transplant center’s success, maps very efficiently enable the presentation of complex, multidimensional data stemming from thousands of observations. As graphical images their use adds dynamism by engaging an audience in both a seeing and hearing process which focuses attention and markedly aids in retention of the subject matter (U.S. Department of Labor, p. 1). It is also suggested that graphics serve not only as a way to communicate an idea but can also “be the means to create or discover the idea itself” (Card, et al., p. 1).
Far beyond the capacity of a conventional table or bar graph, information revealed in a map is applicable to both clinical and administrative uses: One image might reveal how distance from the transplant center affects graft and patient survival rates thus identifying areas where patients would benefit from closer follow-up. Another image might show communities where the rate of transplantation among listed patients falls below average, an indication that there might locale specific barriers to transplantation. For business development purposes maps can show the effect of outreach efforts that targeted specific areas, or patterns of patient referrals over time, including revealing the impact of competing centers on referral volume. These are but a few of the tremendous number of possibilities presented by the use of geographic mapping.