Recently, Dr. John Halamka commented that we need to work towards finding “parsimony in healthcare.” By determining the least amount of components that need to change in order to obtain the greatest efficiencies, he believes that we can alleviate physician frustrations and avoid costly system replacements. This idea was reinforced at the HxRefactored conference held in Brooklyn, NY last month, which brought together designers, developers, and vendors to discuss ways of improving the health experience for both patients and providers.
The themes of usability and intuitive-design were recurring, and it is clear that we need to design and develop solutions with our end users in mind. It was also evident that we need to create solutions that work with existing systems, integrating user-experience best practices to enhance workflows and drive adoption:
- Give users a choice: User experience is about the individual, and although some processes are immutable, providing physicians with a choice of using desktop or mobile apps for capabilities, such as speech-enabled documentation, empowers them to choose what works best for them.
- Know your end user: Systems that have intelligent default settings that mold to each user and his or her preferences can help boost adoption.
- Plan for the unexpected: Users will not follow the same behaviors or use the same phrases, in fact, so technology needs to be versatile and accommodate the clinician, not the other way around.
This last point poses an interesting challenge in health IT. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, there are high levels of variability in clinicians’’ use of electronic health records (EHRs). This is a point Dr. Jacob Reider, deputy national coordinator of the ONC, has also emphasized, using an example of one physician documenting a patient’s condition as “winter itch,” a term used in certain parts of the country to describe eczema. The downstream effect this can have when health information exchanges are brought into the equation quickly becomes apparent, and is an important consideration to keep top of mind as we continue to develop solutions. However, taking into account different language permutations is a challenge that exists in every digital interaction, and we can leverage best practices from the consumer space to provide the better workflows and user experience for care teams.
While we certainly have our share of challenges ahead, by keeping the end users’ needs in mind as we evaluate the various aspects and components of technology, we will ensure that these systems are enhanced in ways that optimize workflows and drive better adoption.