Data visualizations are a powerful tool for helping you interpret your data and for telling a compelling story when reporting back your findings to members of the clinic community.

Different types of visualizations are ideal for different types of data. Here are some guidelines for when to use visualizations that are common in survey research:

  • Pie charts are great for comparing proportions or percentages within a group

  • Bar charts are helpful for comparing groups to each other

  • Line graphs are helpful for looking at relationships between variables or looking at change over time.

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A Note On Anonymity: When you share findings with anyone, and especially within your own clinic community, it is essential to maintain anonymity. It is important to only share results that are general enough that clinic members can’t figure out who they come from. For example, if your clinic only has three social workers, reporting findings specific to social workers would make it easy to others to figure out who those results came from.

  • Current guidance from the National Institute of Health is that you should avoid presenting data from groups small than 10.

  • Group survey respondents in rationale ways to protect small samples. For example, instead of presenting physicians and nurse practitioners separately, you can group them as providers

If you are interested in learning more about visualizing health care data, please visit Visualizing Health.

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Pie ChartS

For example, imagine that you are interested in how easily patients at the clinic are able to access mental health services. In the survey instrument for providers and staff included in this toolkit, we asked employees how strongly they agreed with the following statement: If a patient needs treatment for a mental health concern, the team can refer them to services easily.

Imagine that 65% of employees agreed with that statement, 30% disagreed, and 5% weren’t sure. Because were are taking about percentage of a group of people, a pie graph would be an appropriate way to visualize these data.


But what if you want to compare employees’ perceptions to those of patients (survey item If I need treatment for a mental health or substance use concern, I can get the care I need)? Rather than making two pie charts, a better way to compare these two groups of members of the clinic community would be a bar graph.

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Last, imagine that your clinic begins consistently surveying community members for several years. You may want to be able to compare across years to see if the clinic is improving. A line chart would be a useful tool for showing these changes over time.