User Experience Magazine: Volume 6, Issue 4, 2007
Feature Articles: Usability in Healthcare
As part of the user research for a health website, we wanted to leverage the dynamic world of social networking to a great cause -- better health. Our goal was to create an area within Revolution Health where people can share their health information and experiences to facilitate connections and knowledge exchange. We assumed people would be thrilled to finally have a place to connect, share, and learn in matters of health and illness. What we learned is that although Web 2.0 profiles have a lot of innovative ways to help people interact, users can find these tools threatening when using them to provide intimate information about one’s health.
Each of our user types had a different response to an online health profile prototype, from the Newly Diagnosed, who is not ready to share information about themselves to the Health Enthusiasts, who wants profiles narrowly focused on their particular interests. This article identifies some user attitudes and describes design objectives that Revolution Health uses to create a place on the web where people can share their health information and experiences
A total redesign of Zoll Data Systems’ touch-screen electronic medical records software program for professionals in the field addressed a number of key usability issues. The project followed a user-centered design process for the first time in the company. The redesign goal was to improve usability of the application for field professionals. To observe users and gather feedback on system use, the project manager and usability consultant rode in ambulances and fire/rescue vehicles for four days. After product release, the new interface design has been incredibly well-received by customers and users. Two years of user and business feedback shows return on investment for the company has been tremendous.
One of the most basic guidelines for content usability and plain language is that you must write for the readers, using concepts and terminology that are meaningful to them. This can be especially challenging when the topic is healthcare, especially with a medically complex topic like clinical trials for cancer treatments. As part of a user-centered research project for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), we explored different ways of presenting information to help patients (and their families) make decisions about participating in a clinical trial. We focused on understanding what terminology was familiar to the patients, and had some surprises about both their knowledge and preferences. We also learned that viewpoint matters. As one patient summed it up, the information is often focused on the science and scientists, rather than on the value to the patient, when she wanted it to be focused on her hopes for survival.
In 1999 the Institute of Medicine of the U. S. National Academies report, “To Err Is Human,” estimated that between 44,000 and 98,000 inpatient deaths occur annually in the U.S. due to patient safety events, with a related cost of $17 – 29 billion. In that same year, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) formed the National Center for Patient Safety (NCPS), an organization that continues to promote a culture of safety throughout the 155 hospitals in the VA system.
VA’s Veterans Health Administration has been a leader in the systems-based approach of the patient safety movement. Evidence of this leadership includes visits over the years by representatives of over ten countries who came to learn methods to incorporate into their national patient safety initiatives. Patient safety efforts in VA aim to build fault-tolerant systems that reduce the likelihood of patient harm. This article introduces the patient safety movement and three supporting initiatives within VA: the NCPS, the Office of Information Patient Safety Program, and the Bar Code Resource Office. The article includes examples of the activities of these entities to illustrate usability and human factors-based tactics to decrease harm to patients in the VA healthcare system.
In countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States, providers of healthcare to older people, including home healthcare, respite care and long-term care workers, play a key role. Yet they have had relatively little involvement in the e-health infrastructure and electronic client record systems. System developers often assume that the needs of providers in residential facilities and private homes are similar to those who work in larger institutions, such as hospitals. Our project in Australia involved these providers in a systematic approach to documenting requirements for communication between healthcare IT systems (also called healthcare messaging). The approach used narrative stories and diagrams to capture the workflow in ways meaningful to non-IT healthcare
Usability and Medical Systems by Aaron Marcus, Editor in Chief, with Whitney Quesenbery and Lyle Kantrovich, special guest editors
Life and Love: Positive Strategies for Autistic Adults
By Zosia Zaks