Pictal: health visualization tools for patients

Data Visualization, Healthcare


I set out to create an analog set of tools intended to help patients better communicate about their health. Why analog? I experienced the difficulties involved with creating a digital health history timeline app, and realized I might be able to have a quicker impact with lower-fidelity tools.


My process involved sketching, creating worksheets in InDesign, testing them as a user, and giving them to other patients to test. The worksheets have two elements, so far: a ‘timeline’ to express how a patient has been doing over time, and a body map to allow people to express how they are physically feeling.





I had severe food poisoning and had a chance to test out these worksheets:



The doctor who treated me said ‘this is the coolest thing ever,’ a phrase that I have heard a number of times from a number of different providers. The visual presentation helped her quickly understand what I was experiencing, and the chronology of events.

I also had the wonderful honor of leading a workshop at Medicine X 2017 in which participants used these worksheets to visualize an ER visit. Here is a write-up of the results: Visualizing symptoms, sensations and stories: trends in how people picture their health.


I’m calling this worksheet Pictal. Please feel free to download, print, and use it however you would like. My only request is that you tell me what should be improved, so that I can make these better for other patients.

View regular paper size: 8.5″ x 11″ View large size: 11″ x 17″