Thursday, February 09, 2012
This Is One Of the Areas That the PCEHR Will Need To Really Work On. The System Has to Be Safe and Easy To Use!
We had the following appear a little while ago
January 27, 2012 | Michelle McNickle, Web Content Producer
Sometimes, small tweaks can make a big difference, and according to Bob Hunchberger, a clinical informaticist for a 500-bed hospital, that couldn’t be truer when it comes to your EHR.
Hunchberger suggests five dos and don’ts of EHR interface design.
1. Don’t mix metaphors. If the base metaphor you’re using is a tab metaphor taking you from function to function or page to page, said Hunchberger, stick with it. “Don’t switch metaphors within the application, requiring the user to remember to pick from a drop down list versus using tabs,” he said. “Also, make sure the tab metaphor looks like a real-world tab; users are easily confused about the use of tabs when they don’t look like real-world tabs.” If the metaphor is command buttons and links, he continued, then stick with it – don’t switch to graphic pictures with no command instruction on the picture, “or worse, use a picture that has no content in the mind of the user,” he said. Lastly, the same can be said when it comes to color metaphors, like the red, yellow, and green stoplight metaphor. Use them consistently, said Hunchberger, to indicate “high alert,” “warning,” or “everything is normal.” “Use of these colors to group tasks and/or medications in task lists or eMARs when they are not related to a high alert, warning or normal condition is poor use of the metaphor,” he said.
2. Do minimize use of different colors. Different colors distract, and too many colors are confusing, said Hunchberger. Instead, it’s best to keep it simple. “Trying to provide smart information through the use of colors can be overwhelming,” he said. “One color for one type of medication, and another for a different type, is poor use.” If you’re going to use color, remember to ensure that all information conveyed with color is also available without color. “Why? Because about 8 percent of males and about one-half of 1 percent of females have difficulty discriminating colors,” he said. “When using colors to differentiate information in a grid or table, ensure a color code key is on the page and is easily understood so colors used on the page can be easily interpreted.” Finally, said Hunchberger, be consistent with the color palette. Don’t use 32-bit colors in one part of the application and the limited set of RGB colors in another.
3. Don’t fail to provide short cut keys for experienced users.
4. Do enable user preferences.
5. Don’t mix fonts and font sizes.
There is a great deal of wisdom in the five points raised here. The is also no doubt of the importance of getting an interface to be highly intuitive in use and this means making sure that the interface follows the conventions used by the operating system user interface and the major routine applications that it supports so users find it as familiar as possible.
The other issue that has to figure majorly in interface design is safety. At all times it is vital to make sure selections and defaults are appropriate to maximise patient safety through ensuring the clinician is guided to the intended selections easily and quickly.
We still have a fair bit to learn in this area I believe!
Posted by Dr David More MB PhD FACHI at Thursday, February 09, 2012