Confidence in data published on PHE COVID-19 dashboard increases from 47% to 90%

In March 2020, Public Health England (PHE) published an interactive dashboard to highlight the spread of COVID-19 and an overview of the pandemic situation as it changed. More recently, it also provided the ability to track vaccination-related data.

The dashboard has been widely used, PHE said, highlighting that ‘during the peak of the third lockdown there were a record of 76.5 million hits in just 24 hours’.

Initially launched to track the number of total cases, daily cases and deaths, the dashboard now includes the number of patients who need ventilation support and the numbers of people testing positive for COVID-19.

During the year, the team publishing and manually working on the dataset consisted of three people, increasing to 18 over the year. The team were further supported with automation tools to handle the data and reporting, with PHE highlighting there are now upwards of 1,200,000 number of rows in each dataset.

During 2020, PHE sought feedback on the dashboard, receiving 17,000 responses, including one response of over 30,000 words.

One question PHE asked in the survey was ‘do you trust the data that you see on the COVID-19 Dashboard?’.  In August 2020, 47% responded with ‘yes’ they trust the data. In November, this increased to 73% of those surveyed and on 9 February 2021 it increased to 90%.

PHE said in a blog post: “We are proud that the latest data are always available to members of the public at the same time they are seen in Downing Street.

“And we’ve been constantly adding new features to make it easier for people to understand the data most relevant to their communities, and to the policies that affect their lives, in response to user feedback.

“We’ve also been working with individuals and groups who may have greater difficulty using the site to make it as accessible as possible, including providing easy-read formats, enabling screen readers, and building appropriate colour palettes.

“All the data we use (and more) are available for download, and for professional users we have built a suite of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to make the data as open and reusable as possible.

“Users tell us they are even using the dashboard to make decisions about whether they should go on holiday to a certain area, visit a friend or get their hair cut.”

Each week there are about 19 million page views across the site, many of them postcode searches on the interactive map.

The team concluded the blog post to state: “the team are trying to get an even better understanding of this feedback by using novel techniques such as text classification and clustering to pick out key themes from free text comments so we can make sure they are factored into our design process too.”

To view the dashboard please click here.