How do I explain missing data to consumers?

Be clear and concise.

Displaying comparative quality information is a big job, and it’s important to do it in ways that promote understanding and avoid misinterpretation. AF4Q Alliances are up for the task; and just as there are many reasons and ways to display and explain data, there are reasons and ways to report missing data.
Consumers tend to ignore health professionals for whom no data are available, presuming they are hiding something negative. Reporting missing data tells consumers who is reporting, who is not, and why. 
Reporting missing data can have a positive effect on stakeholders. By highlighting health professionals who have submitted data, others may be motivated to report in the future. Accurately and fairly describing why data are missing can also enhance an Alliance’s relationships with health professionals. 
Make it easy to identify and understand patterns. Use visual shortcuts to let users easily compare health professionals to determine whose performance is better or worse than others. 
Help users focus on topics or health professionals of interest to them. Employ rank ordering and tiering of data. It is important to list all health professionals with missing data, but place them at the bottom of the list or group them together. 
Use short sentences or phrases in the cell where data would normally appear. By including all information within the display, you can tell consumers why data are missing without having to refer to a different area of the report (e.g., footnote, key/legend, roll-over, link/pop-up window). 
Consider using word icons. Word icons can be more efficient than short sentences. They combine the use of color, shape, and words to differentiate health professionals. 
Don’t use symbols or acronyms. Symbols and acronyms require consumers to search for a definition and are often interpreted differently than intended. 
Don’t omit health professionals without data from the display. Omitting professionals may cause report users to question the validity and reliability of the site. 
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