What is User Experience in Healthcare IT?

The healthcare industry is going through a process of great transformation, with an increase in technology usage across the continuum of care and throughout the administration of care in the nation’s health delivery systems.

Products, workflows and processes designed utilizing the principles of good user-centered design are paramount to the successful use of a product by its user.  An overview of the terminology associated with usability, user experience (UX) & user-centered design (UCD) can be found here.

Defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), user experience (UX) is a “person's perceptions and responses resulting from the use and/or anticipated use of a product, system or service”.

The ISO definition states that user experience “includes all the users' emotions, beliefs, preferences, perceptions, physical and psychological responses, behaviors and accomplishments that occur before, during and after use.  User experience is (also) a consequence of brand image, presentation, functionality, system performance, interactive behaviour and assistive capabilities of the interactive system, the user's internal and physical state resulting from prior experiences, attitudes, skills and personality, and the context of use.”

There are many methods that can be utilized to quantify user experience.  When you begin a study of UX at your organization, consider both the goals of the study and the goals of the user.  Explicitly understanding the “what” and “why” of your quantitative study’s metrics (i.e. performance testing vs. benchmarking) and your end user’s goal (i.e.  use of product vs. process optimization) prior to performing your research will help to focus your efforts towards quanitfying user experience within your organization's design process.

Defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), usability is the “effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which users achieve goals in a particular environment”.  In healthcare, the “particular environment” referred to in the definition can refer to a:

  • care setting
  • medical device
  • piece of software
  • workflow or affiliated process

The accuracy and completeness with which users can achieve goals in a particular environment.  In healthcare, this can refer to examples such as a clinician’s effectiveness utilizing an EHR, a diabetes patient’s effectiveness when using a blood glucose reader, and a medical coder’s effectiveness when interacting with a billing software screen interface.  Any human/computer interaction that takes place related to health or medicine represents an opportunity for positive or negative usability experiences for the user as it relates to effectiveness.

The resources expended in relation to the accuracy and completeness of goal achieved.  In healthcare, this can refer to examples such as the cognitive load required by a Nurse Manager to navigate through a CPOE, a new mother’s effort getting through  hospital hallways to get to the NICU to visit her newborn, and a caregiver’s cognitive workload navigating a patient portal to schedule an appointment for their loved one.   Any interaction, workflow, or process that takes place in the delivery and consumption of healthcare has efficiency variances that either positively or negatively affect an end user’s experience as it relates to efficiency.

The comfort and acceptability of the work system to its users and other people affected by its use.  In healthcare, this can refer to examples such as a health system CIO’s satisfaction with the system’s business intelligence/analytics software, a person in a wheelchair’s satisfaction with a facility’s ADA-compliant doors, and a patient’s satisfaction with the documentation they receive detailing their care.  Any interaction, with fellow humans as well as machines & computers, creates an opportunity to affect an end-user’s experience as it relates to satisfaction.

The concept of user-centered design (UCD) describes a design and development process in which the end-user is considered and influences the design throughout all the steps within a design/development process.   Another term for user-centered design (UCD) is human-centered design (HCD), which ISO defines as “approach to systems design and development that aims to make interactive systems more usable by focusing on the use of the system and applying human factors/ergonomics and usability knowledge and techniques.”  ISO also considers the term human-centered design “addresses impacts on a number of stakeholders, not just those typically considered as users. “  The ISO definition for human-centered design also takes into account that “usable systems can provide a number of benefits, including improved productivity, enhanced user well-being, avoidance of stress, increased accessibility and reduced risk of harm.”

By focusing on the user throughout the design, development, implementation, and validation of a product, process, or workflow, you can both increase end user performance & satisfaction as well as discover cost savings over the life cycle of the project through a decrease in maintenance costs, customer & individual training and support costs, and development time & costs.  You can learn more about the benefits of user-centered design in our ROI of UX section.

The HIMSS Usability Maturity Model can help leaders and individuals assess levels of usability and build toward more advanced levels.  You can learn more about the HIMSS UXMM here.

User Experience, usability, user-centered design, healthcare