I’ll fall in love with your beautiful health story

I can’t help it, I fall in love every time.

As I get started up with Pictal Health, I’ve been working with patients 1-on-1 to help gather, distill, and visualize their health stories. This process involves talking together, prioritizing what’s important, and creating some kind of visual to help patients communicate with their care team — usually a visual timeline, and sometimes other types of visuals. My goal right now is to learn from these interactions and iterate toward a viable business model.

As I sit at my computer deeply focused on creating a timeline for someone, it inevitably happens: I sit back, look at the colors and shapes that are emerging, and get that warm, falling feeling.

Partly because my friends at Make New helped me pick a set of complimentary colors that work well together on these timelines, but the love is really about what the shape and texture of the visual tells me about each person’s story. Below are some de-identified examples, with all words replaced with lines.

I often see overlapping periods where many symptoms are co-occurring; this usually represents a hard time in the person’s life. Or as one of my clients put it, their ‘dark period.’ (Which is interesting, because the overlapping colors create darkness.) It also reminds me of a mountain range.

What looks like a hazy setting sun in the below graph represents a scary hospitalization.

Large yellow circles, which I’ve been using to indicate life events and stress levels, might mean death, divorce, or stressful jobs. They also look like warm suns.

Thin spiky needles can show severe flare-ups that happen intermittently.

The contrast between visual representation and content is striking: beauty vs. fear, elegance vs. chaos and stress, hope and relief alongside tragedy. I think this is why I love it. Each little shape and slope is brimming with emotion.


I’m still looking for patients and doctors who are excited to try visualizing health histories — contact me here if you’re interested. Or learn more about Pictal Health.