Article – Creating a Clearer Picture of Patient Flow

This is cool.

It would be interesting to see the convergence of the output of SIIM‘s SWIM initiative and this application to understand real-time metrics of a Radiology department. The dashboard could show the actual location of patients, their spot in the prescribed workflow, and the comparison to statistical norms and/or KPIs.

Layered on top of a BI (business intelligence) platform for historic data analysis, and you would have something special.

Get Moving – New Kinect SDK from Microsoft

Using a Microsoft Kinect (motion, voice) as a healthcare application interface input (e.g. navigating images without touching a computer in the operating room) made a lot of press, but those folks that actually developed for it found the initial device release lacking an a mature API for PC application developers. Microsoft has since released a software developer kit (SDK), but it still required extra coding to have the device recognize desirable gestures. An update to the SDK was recently released and it adds several new gestures that can be recognized and made available to application developers through the SDK.

Check it out.

So, for those many Rads that played the clip from Minority Report (where Tom Cruise interacts with images and video by moving his hands around) during their talks at SIIM and elsewhere, we are one step closer to realizing your dream. 🙂 Though, do try and wave your arms around for a 4 to 8 hour workday and let me know how it goes—eye fatigue will be the least of your worries, my friends.

Designing for the ‘Public’ and the ‘Pros’

I read Seth Godin frequently. I like his style of thinking about and explaining things. Here, he discusses designing interfaces for the public and for pros.

How does this relate to healthcare IT? An example is when designing an image viewer interface. The needs of most clinicians (and certainly patients) are different from those of a Radiologist (though some ‘power users’ outside Radiology would disagree, if for no other reason than they feel they should get access to the same tools as Rads, so as not to be thought of as second-class citizens).

While enterprise IT staff want a single image management and viewing system to buy and manage, the needs of the users do vary and need to be considered. Select one optimized for Radiology and more basic imaging consumers are frustrated with the complexity. Provide a viewer that is simple to use, and power users complain about the lack of features.

Managing all images generated in the different departments in a VNA at least gives enterprise IT one of its wishes. As enterprise viewers evolve to provide more capability, more of the power users will shift from using the PACS to the enterprise viewer. The design challenge, of course, is to maintain the ease of use of the enterprise viewer as these more advanced features are added.

Many PACS interfaces were based on existing modality workstation design (in part to appeal to modality technologists and PACS admins, who were often former technologists), which was never a design priority or strength of modality manufacturers. Hopefully, enterprise image viewer developers use the opportunity to define some new interface designs, and not just copy the old, ineffective ones.

Article – At Healthcare Experience Design conference, designers rethink ‘broken processes’

In this article, the topic of user experience design in Electronic Medical Record (EMR) applications is explored. They also briefly discuss the use of EMR technology by patients.

Some thoughts…

  • The fact that EMR user interfaces are often hard-to-use, and are undesirable by the user community they are intended to serve, is not news. EMRs are often, at their core, records management systems, presenting medical records generated by other systems, or by users typing data into the EMR. It is no surprise that information is presented like a big electronic filing cabinet. Niche players are trying to layer solutions on top of the EMR to present the information relevant for a given interaction in a more meaningful way. Often, if the EMR is not built with an open architecture (with APIs for external applications to discover and access information), a copy of (some of) the data is kept in a secondary system. Hopefully, IHE FHIR succeeds and enables an integration ecosystem for EMR add-ons that is tantamount to the platform needed to have an “App Store”.
  • Designing applications for trained medical professionals is hard enough. Trying to build a user interface that makes sense to, and it optimized for the use by, both an Oncologist and my grandmother is near impossible. Medical terminology alone is enough to confuse most patients. Then consider the questions and concerns of the patient as they start to review their CT images and wonder what that little whitish spot might be. In this article, many of the docs surveyed expressed concern over patient access to their own electronic medical records (which is why Personal Health Records were created, friends).

Survey: Doc dissatisfaction with EHRs grows

I enjoy articles like this because so much focus is on the expected benefits of healthcare IT, but as the old marketing tale goes, sometimes ‘the dogs just don’t like the dogfood’. If users won’t use the tools, the outcomes won’t be realized. As is often the case with products, the specialist is not well understood or served. The same applies for imaging consumers–the average imaging consumer using an EHR is quite different than the specialist that needs advanced visualization, navigation and measurement tools. Niche vendors will attempt to fill the gaps.

Most EHR user interfaces resemble an electronic filing cabinet, organizing information by type or service / organizational unit that created the data. Vendors could learn a lot from the design of social networking platforms, which are quite adept at coordinating activities in complex interactions among disparate users.