Presenting Care & Cost Data

Brian Klepper

Over the weekend, Dan Munro – see his recent provocative post on medical management and cost – dropped me most of the chart below – he had cut off everything above the main part of the graphic – which is chock full of interesting comparative information about cost and life expectancy in developed nations around the world. It was first published in the January 2010 National Geographic, but then discussed on their blog as one of many ways to present complex data.

When I first saw it, I couldn’t help but think of Edward Tufte’s classic book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, which I discovered in my 30’s – I was developing a lot of newsletters on health industry trends at the time – and which Amazon refers to as among the “Best books of the 20th century.” An astonishingly interesting and enlightening book about how to present data.

Note that the clear winners in this chart, in terms of bang for the buck (or yen, as the case may be here), are the Japanese, who spend the least on health care to get the longest lifespan, though having an ethnically homogeneous population and a supportive social structure are two of probably many more variables that help this along.

I apologize for the size of this. It may be helpful to blow this up a bit using Control-+.

One thought on “Presenting Care & Cost Data

  1. Well-chosen example, Brian.

    Love the use of line thickness to signal #of physician visits, which helps dispel kneejerk rejoinders that of course systems can spend less and have better health simply by reducing care.

    It will be amusing to tally how many people contact you to ask why data on the US is “missing” from the chart….

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