Visualizing Paths and Flow with Sankey Diagrams

    Sankey diagrams are a specific type of flow diagram, in which the width of the paths represent some quantity. These multidimensional visualizations help you to see flow and discover category relationships with a different perspective. If you were to ask me what my favorite visualization was, I'd most likely say: "The Sankey!"


    Sankey diagrams show metric flows and category relationships. You can use a Sankey diagram to visualize relationship density and trends.


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    Use Cases for the Sankey Diagram

    Use a Sankey diagram to visualize activity patterns such as:

    • Flow: Patient admission and visit flow through your health system - where are patients coming from and where do they have encounters without our facilities and offices?
    • Flow: Patient web activity on your patient portal - where are patients looking for information and where do they end up?
    • Flow: Longitudinal risk scores for multiple visits - how do risk scores change with subsequent visits?
    • Flow: ServiceNow ticket handoffs and SLA compliance (showcased by Nationwide Children's in Nov 2017) - which requests or departments pass tickets back and forth perhaps too much?
    • Flow and Relationships: Care Pathways showing outcomes metric by various treatments or protocols - do patients receiving X have better outcomes than patients on Y?
    • Relationships: readmissions by a variety of dimensions like county, hospital, condition, complexity, comorbidities, outcomes
    • Relationships: Adherence by a variety of demographic and SDoH dimensions like sex, age, race, ethnicity, smoking status, language, support network, community, etc.
    • What else have you seen or envision to be useful with a sankey? Please leave a comment here.


    Data Requirements

    To build a Sankey diagram, you need to have data that includes source and target categories (dimensions) and a metric that you are tracking between them. Luckily, with the Sankey diagrams, these can be completely different types of dimensions and hierarchies, or they can be source and (multiple) target(s) to visualize paths.


    Think about it like this: you have one metric/measure of interest (like volume) and multiple dimensions to look at. In contrast to a scatter plot where you have one dimension and multiple metrics/measures.


    How to Build/Download a Sankey Diagram

    Qlik Sense





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