Visualizing the healthcare ecosystem

I just love visualizing information. Visualizing complex information always helps me understand it better, and I usually end up learning something new. Last fall, I was working on a way of creating a way of helping patients visualize their medical histories. I realized that in order to understand how any healthcare product or tool could fit into the healthcare ecosystem, I would need to try to understand that ecosystem. So I mapped out what I knew. I am sure it’s very rudimentary from an information standpoint; the connections are dependencies are somewhat glossed over. But it did help me understand what I was dealing with and identify pain points and opportunity areas.

I now share it with you, in hopes that a) it could help others, or b) people will offer ideas for improving the diagram. Click to enlarge.



13 thoughts on “Visualizing the healthcare ecosystem

    • Great observation Marshall, thank you! I think often the caregiver is the primary interface with the medical team, and family members often attend visits with patients, so those are definitely connections that should be made. I appreciate your comment.

  1. Katie,
    This is an excellent visualization of the complex health care ecosystem. I am looking for an illustration to be used in a lunch and learn presentation at the University of Washington (Seattle) tomorrow – 2/12/2013. May I include this image in my PowerPoint presentation? Naturally you will receive complete attribution.

    Thank you for the consideration

    Carl Ware

  2. Hi Katie, I think the diagram is really well done and don’t see any particular way of improving it. It seems you’ve taken a “map to reality” approach for identifying different players that comes across very accurately.

    A couple of additional ways of viewing healthcare that I find helpful are 1) Problem/Solution and
    2) “Who controls what?”

    1) For example, a problem/solution model is also patient centric and would look like this:
    * Has Condition (Problem)
    * Has Symptoms (Description or manifestation of Problem)
    * Tries Treatments (Solve or alleviate Problem)

    Treatments may be:
    * Procedure: Recommended and performed by doctor
    * Prescription Drug: Manufactured by pharma, bought at pharmacy, prescribed by doctor.
    * Supplement or Over the Counter Drug: Recommended by doctor, family member, Internet
    * Diet change
    * Lifestyle change
    * Support: Especially for chronic conditions, friends, family, nurses etc. would provide continual support more to alleviate than “solve” the Problem.

    It’s over simplified of course, but does maybe help clarify questions like “when does a doctor get involved?” and “what type of information is in your EHR?”.

    2) The “Who controls what” is similar to what you read about here:

    It would be organized by who makes what decisions. Hope that’s helpful, be happy to chat about it. Very nice work. 🙂

    • Hi Brett, thank you very much for your considered feedback! I like the two models you have outlined. For the first, the ‘problem/solution,’ what comes to mind for me is something like a flowchart or decision diagram that shows the ‘state of the patient’ (problems, symptoms) and really highlights the avenues that a patient may pursue for treatment.

      In fact, what comes to mind is an article I just read called ‘The Doctor’s Mind Map.’ (
      It presents the doctor’s decision process graphically. Something like this, but from the patient perspective, would be really interesting. Taking Donna Cryer’s account of the difficulties she experiences with being ‘adherent’ would be a great place to start. Here’s her great, recent post: ‘Cumulative Burden: The real barrier to adherence for complex patients?’ (

      Number 2, ‘who controls what,’ is also a great idea. I imagine some way of seeing who the influencers really are, including, of course, drug companies.

      Thanks again! I think these are really interesting ideas for visualizing the state of healthcare.

  3. Adding a comment from twitter user @gordon_jonathan:

    @HealthcareWen @katiemccurdy Good diagram, but missing multiple providers (fragmentation), administrative people & systems, regulators

    • Yes I am making an eco system diagram for my work, and I found those gaps as well, and also research. I think by making a line go from providor to providor linking through exchange, you might signal the multi providor cunumdrum. What I really like about your diagram is the fact that the patient / health care consumer is in the middle, and of the most importance. I might lable that entity as health care consumer, with Patient as an attribute. Often when we look at health care it is in reference to other people who are patients for example our parents children etc. Thus we are more than patients in the center, and by labeling us as patients you perpetuate the notion that healthcare is about interventions and not maintenance of health.

  4. Thank you Katie for this… Its nicely visualized!!
    Please could you tell me the software you used to create this picture? It looks nice..

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