5 Considerations when Designing Software for Clinicians

As the User Experience Lead at Mobile Heartbeat, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time learning from our clinical users around the country. I’ve had the unique opportunities to shadow ER nurses on chaotic night shifts, observe an open-heart surgery on the OR floor, and of course, conduct hundreds of user interviews. Not only has this helped me build a deep respect for our users and the critical role they play in healthcare, it has helped me build a deeper understanding of their unique goals, frustrations, and workflows. At Mobile Heartbeat, one of our chief responsibilities is to understand our users and deliver a quality product to empower them. I’d like to share some insights we’ve learned along the way and outline five key considerations we use when designing software for clinicians.

 

Clinicians are highly mobile
Clinicians in the hospital are always on the move. The average nurse walks about 5 miles per day at work – hence the comfy shoes. It is common to see one of our users speed walking down the hall, pulling a phone out of their scrubs, and shooting off a quick text to a care team member before jumping into the next patient room. Because of this, it is important that we ensure our user experience is incredibly simple and intuitive. Our UI needs to be familiar, buttons need to be properly sized (or oversized), the use of color needs to be clear and intentional, and consequential interactions need to have confirmations to prevent “fat fingering.” These are all critical details that we are mindful of as we continue to evolve our product. Although subtle nuances, all of these elements create an overall simple application that improves efficiency and patient care.

 

Clinicians are highly distracted
Picture yourself trying to send an urgent text with three patient monitoring alarms going off, a patient coding in front of you, and the rest of the care team scrambling around you. This would certainly make you forget about that button tucked away off screen, or what that beautiful, but abstract, icon means. When clinicians are interacting with software in time-dependent, life-or-death situations, it dramatically increases the cognitive load of user interactions. Therefore, in MH-CURE we avoid forcing our patients to memorize, interpret, or learn elements in the application. By making calls-to-action clear, apparent, and on-screen, it becomes easier to react effectively in times of crisis.

 

In MH-CURE, we’ve designed a persistent banner to ensure that urgent communications never go unnoticed. Additionally, we use recognizable iconography and colors to clearly identify critical elements within the app. When in a text conversation, sending an urgent text is always visible on screen and one step away.

 

Not everyone is familiar with modern technology
Hospitals are typically huge, diverse environments, and this results in a highly diverse work force. Therefore, we made sure to avoid assumptions about our users and their technical expertise, accessibility needs, and ability to successfully interact with software. While it is important to always design for users with limited comfort with technology, it is also important to enable power users and provide them the tools to optimize their workflows. We continue to work on this balance as we evolve the user experience.

 

Hospital networks can be unreliable
In a perfect world there would be no dropped calls, lost texts, or poor call quality. This isn’t the case in our daily lives, and certainly not the case in the hospital environment. No matter how advanced the infrastructure is in a hospital, you will always find an issue in the corner of that specific unit, elevator, or hallway. While we don’t have control over this as a software vendor, what we can do is design our software to respond to these events appropriately. Therefore, we always provide feedback to the user to notify them when interactions are unsuccessful, when the network is down, and when external events are preventing them from using the application effectively.

 

We’ve designed a persistent banner to clearly display during connectivity issues.  Additionally, we always provide feedback to users through alert dialogues and status changes when messages fail to deliver. 

 

Not all clinical workflows are the same
We can all assume that the typical day of a cardiothoracic surgeon is very different from an ICU nurse. However, it is also important to understand that the workflow of an ICU nurse at one hospital can be very different from one at another hospital. Through collaboration with our users and in-house clinical optimization team, we understand the unique considerations of different hospitals and solve for all users when creating our software solutions. MH-CURE supports the entire enterprise, not just a specific subgroup of users. We recently released a new user interface, which was intentionally designed to address this need for flexibility and customization in the future.

We keep all of these considerations in mind as we continue to evolve our user experience at Mobile Heartbeat. We believe that truly great products are built by investing in understanding the thousands of tiny details that make up the daily experiences of our users. Through continued collaboration with our customers, we remain dedicated to evolving the MH-CURE Platform and dramatically improving our users’ ability to communicate and collaborate faster and more effectively.

 

 

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