10 Significant Clinical Data Variables in Layman’s Terms

Eileen Pangu
6 min readJun 15, 2022

The common concepts that you’ll hear in healthcare data analysis.

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I’ve developed an interest in healthcare data analysis recently. Healthcare data analysis is already a common well-established practice. But as the healthcare industry adopts more open interoperable data standards and cloud technologies, which has been happening in the past few years, healthcare data analysis, especially the ones leveraging advanced machine learning, will become ever more ubiquitous.

I believe there is a lucrative future in this space for us technology practitioners. But a barrier entry for people with pure technical background is the medical jargon that comes with the rich set of healthcare data. This blog post intends to provide a crash course on the common and significant clinical measurements that are often involved in healthcare data analysis.

Note: this is a sister blog post to the 16 Common Clinical Conditions in Layman’s Terms.

Disclaimer: this is not medical advice; but a set of concepts that can bootstrap your understanding of the basic measurements in healthcare data analysis.

1. Capillary Refill Time

When you pinch your fingertip for a few seconds, you press the blood out of the capillaries (the far end of your blood vessels) in that area. Your pinched fingertip becomes blanch. When you release the pressure, the blood will come back, and your fingertip turns back to your normal skip color. The time it takes to refill the capillaries is an important bedside measurement for blood circulation.

Usually under 2 seconds is good. Prolonged capillary refill time may indicate the presence of circulatory shock, which is a severe clinical condition. The exact refill time depends on many factors, such as room temperature, heart condition, old age, etc. It’s also hard to quantify sometimes due to poor lighting and how nurses count time lapse. Nevertheless, it’s a simple and effective approach to assessing acutely ill patients, and it’s regularly performed in ICU.

2. Blood Pressure

There are two reads of blood pressure: systolic and diastolic. Systolic blood pressure measures the pressure the heart exerts while beating, which has a higher read…

Eileen Pangu

Manager and Tech Lead @ FANG. Enthusiastic tech generalist. Enjoy distilling wisdom from experiences. Believe in that learning is a lifelong journey.