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What is Health Infoscape?

Illness is often associated with being an isolated event, but analysis from MIT Senseable City Lab and General Electric in the US, shows otherwise. They have developed a new visualisation tool called Health Infoscape which analyses data from 7.2 million anonymous medical records.

Initial analysis from this highly interactive tool shows that there are often associated illnesses around any one condition. These insights into human health shows how closely-connected some illnesses are that historically were thought to be unrelated.

How does it work?

The tool is split into categories by condition type. By selecting a category the tool displays all closely connected conditions. For example, selecting ‘mental health’ will show depression, anxiety and tobacco use. The size of the nodes represents the size of the prevalence. For the category ‘mental health’, there is a large prevalence of depression which is closely connected with the conditions anxiety and tobacco use. These associated categories however, are much less prevalent across the 7.2 million medical records that were analysed.


How can the data be viewed?

The data can be viewed in several different ways. The circular network layout allows you to view the connectivity of different illnesses and the prevalence by node size.  This mainly demonstrates the connectivity to illnesses within the same category. The web network layout allows you to visualise the data slightly differently.



It not only shows the connectivity to illnesses within the same category, but also the connections to illnesses in other categories. Using the ‘mental health’ category, you are able to see that depression is also associated with migraine from the ‘nervous system’ category and palpitations from the ‘circulatory system’ category.



Drilling down into the data

By selecting the gender option, the tool allows you to drill down into the most prevalent illnesses associated with either males or females. For example, headache in men is much more likely to be associated with anaemia, whereas in women, headache is more closely linked to dizziness and vitamin d deficiency.

Hovering over any of the nodes details the prevalence of the illness in men or women and also details which conditions it is strongly correlated to.


What is the impact?

The data Health Infoscape provides shows that the boundaries between illnesses are becoming blurred. The tool has the potential to help both patients and doctors better diagnose illnesses or diseases. Understanding how different illnesses relate to other conditions will have a big impact on the medical profession. They will need to seriously re-examine the conventional categories currently used for diagnosing illnesses, diseases and ailments.

The Health Infoscape is still in its infancy; the next step will be to delve deeper into the data to analyse the effect and impact the environment has on human health.


The data for Health Infoscape was collected from 7.2 million anonymous medical data records from across the US between January 2005 and July 2010. 54.5% of the records were female and 45.5% were male.




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