Loadband, an information design pattern for showing intensity of real world factors

This article is part of the Syndromic Surveillance and Covid-19 collection on Thoughtfaucet.

While working on my “Estimating Future ER Load” information design I wanted a way to show how many cases of influenza-like illness an emergency department was capable of handling over a given time.

One of doing this might be to examine previous flu seasons and show what that workload was like relative to the current environment.

With this goal and data in mind I crafted what I’m going to call a loadband. Not to be confused with the excellent chamber music group Loadbang (recommended listening when you want something other than all of this to think about).

Loadband shows an area of workload activity to visualize a sense of the relative difficulty.

To make this loadband I took the data for the peak of the previous flu season: Dec 12, 2019-Feb 15, 2020 from EpiQuery (NY Health & Mental Hygiene). I found the median case count for that period and set a solid line.

The case counts per day for this time period ranged from the 400s to the 1100s. I made bands that were 100 cases tall and set the darkness of each band relative to how many days had cases/day which fell within that range.

In this way, readers can see that the peak of the immediate preceding flu season had quite a few cases per day and that at the peak they tended to range more in the 900s and up.

My hope with the loadband is that it gives a sense of what an emergency department has done in the past over a sustained period of time so we know when they are exceeding past performance and in entirely new territory.

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