Usability Day 2007 * Healthcare

Heading over to Microsoft’s Usability Day event Best Practices for “People Ready” Solutions. I am stoked to check out what Andrew Kirby (Director, National Health Service Common UI Project, UK) and Mike Gordon (Program Manager, Health Solutions Group), have to say about Learnings from the Healthcare Industry, as well as Dennis Wixon, Research Manager of MS Games, has on his mind in the way of UX design.

Having been in the world of clinical information systems training, it is exciting to see this topic get the attention it deserves. It was cool watching Dr. Christopher Longhurst’s Podtech interview and his thoughts on incorporating the visual and statistical design of Edward Tufte in healthcare systems.

My two cents…healthcare system usability…as we all know training cannot fix a broken system or bad design. A majority of healthcare information systems I have interfaced with are not extremely user friendly and/or intuitive to use. It is a real problem when a doctor or nurse has an easier experience checking their gmail account or listening to their iPod, than they do entering critical patient data. To make matters worse some systems don’t interface well with others, some information is digital and some information is still on paper.

How did this happen? To paraphrase Wikinomics, it seems that many of these closed/proprietary health information systems by nature cannot compete with the innovation of agile and/or open source projects. The software takes too long to design, build, test (if there is time) train and implement. By the time it is deployed and fixed and fixed and fixed, it seems relatively out of date experience. Because of closed competition, there is no single robust platform to build truly innovative systems.

What can we do? This is something training cannot fix nor should fix. In my opinion, health information systems need to open up and work toward a common platform to build on. This would free them to reach new speeds and levels of innovation and consistently optimize the user experience because in the end that is their purpose. Why is web 2.0, eLearning 2.0 and all other 2.0’s popular? Because the experience feels good, which motivates and engages the user. The learning experience and the daily use are the of the same. Why get trained on new features, when the features are so easy to use. Good design is good design. That is the confidence we should empower our care providers. Make order entry as easy as creating a music playlist. Is that too much to ask?

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