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December 15, 2021

With an ever-growing abundance of data in today’s ecosystem, there is a significant role played by data analytics in enhancing day-to-day tasks of an individual or a business. Data dashboards provide a centralized access to information in visual or structured format. The dashboards comprise a collection of visual reports that display key performance indicators (KPI), important metrics and key data points, usually in real-time to monitor the health of a business. In the clinical trial process as well, analytics play a vital role in risk-based monitoring, which has been covered in the subsequent sections.

Role of KPIs

In the pharmaceutical industry, KPIs and key risk indicators (KRI) are critical where subject-safety, data quality, and early risk assessments play a crucial role. To digitize the process of clinical trials without compromising on important quality checks, the industry needs a solution that is powered by KPIs and KRIs, and follows a proactive approach to quickly identify issues and accelerate the process. Risk-based monitoring targets and maps resources around risks related to subject and efficacy. Monitoring critical processes and data through efficient visualization tools, such as charts, bar graphs, etc., offers quality insights and improves productivity in pharma research. Visualization in clinical trials should be designed such that it quickly and precisely identifies the outlines and alerts issues to end-users in real-time.

Effective analytical interface

Knowing how to structure the data is the first step in developing a robust analytics interface that can help in taking smarter decisions. Selecting the right kind of data visualization from a list is the next and most important step since it enhances usability of the dashboard. Listed below are a few aspects deduced from first-hand experience that should be considered while developing a data-intensive analytics application.

Unified, user-first approach

The information provided by data dashboards should be concise, crisp, and in real-time. From an end-user perspective, all data visualizations on a screen should form a unified view. The main question that should be asked throughout the dashboard design process is whether the intended user interface is seamless and effortless for users to learn and work on. Pilot studies and focus group discussions highlighting demonstrating prior successes and knowledge in this regard prove extremely valuable here.

Relevant data dashboard screens

Dashboards should allow users to have a seamless experience.  The information furnished by dashboards should be precise with a provision to have optimal visuals for each KPI. Visual tools such as graphs and charts present data into an easily understandable format. A basic understanding and purpose of each chart/graph would help in choosing the most appropriate tool as per requirements.

For example, bar charts and column charts are primarily used to summarize data into categories or provide a value-based metrics, whereas line graphs display continuous data over time. Pie charts display related category breakdown, and a gauge chart measures KPI against a set target. Choosing the most appropriate chart is a manifestation of end objectives that a dashboard is supposed to serve, and thus needs to be decided carefully. From a visual front, RAG (red, amber, green) thresholds are critical elements to present KRIs.

Role of user research in development process

The process of developing dashboards is centered around users and begins with creating user personas, collecting information about user roles, and mapping out user stories. User research plays a pivotal role during all stages of development and involves creating wireframes, testing, and validating them. This can be used as a guide for developers through wireframes that contain action-oriented information to understand the functional needs and eliminate gaps during development.

User experience

Users will accept any application based on the ease of navigation and whether it reduces efforts. Listed below are a few important aspects of any dashboard screen:

· Structure – The page should be structured in a way that it draws attention to significant data points and follows user experience standards.

· Colors – Use of monochrome colors on the dashboard helps in providing a clean appearance.

· Contrast – Contrast, when used sparingly, can help in communicating a point and help quickly distinguish the outliers.

· Repetition and consistency – Repetition in design implies retaining the look and feel across the board. A consistent design can be intuitive and engaging for the end-user.

· Responsiveness – Modeling features that can be wrapped around in a device-agnostic design format will add more value to the application.

Conclusion

Analytics plays a vital role in the digitization process of clinical trials, especially with the plethora of data around us. Thus, it is imperative for dashboards that are created to help achieve the target by providing valuable insights keeping user persona and experience in mind. A sound knowledge of visualization and user experience aspects will help to develop and architect applications that add value to the pharmaceutical industry.

Parul Dua is working as a Technical Lead for TCS ADD Platform with the Life Sciences unit at TCS. In her career spanning over 4 years, she has experience in application development with hands-on experience in analytical dashboards. She holds a master’s degree in Computer Application from SASTRA University. Her areas of interest include web designing, data analytics, and machine learning.

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