Monday, May 12, 2008

Everyware Health Care: Microsoft Health's Common User Interface website, usable health care applications, pervasive health games...

I've been concerned about the problems people encounter with health technology, especially over the past year or so as I witnessed my father's journey in and out of hospitals, the emergency room, and various medical offices.

Technology can support quality health care. Systems that incorporate user-friendly electronic medical records (EMR) can support effective communication and collaboration among the members of medical teams. Technology that is not user-friendly can lead to inefficiency among health care team members, and can also contribute to errors that affect patient safety, if not lives.

In my opinion, health care software systems should ensure that the applications used by the patient inter-operate with those used by practitioners and health care facilities. The system should also allow for interaction with family members, especially when the patient is elderly, has a serious illness, or is a minor. This would be a good way to provide guidance for family members caring for the patient at home, and also provide an effective means of monitoring the patient's progress.

Microsoft Health's Common User Interface website provides a design guidance document, examples of toolkits and samples, a toolkit download, a showcase, and a roadmap that offers more detailed information. This is a great move on the part of Microsoft.

Microsoft's Silverlight and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) are used for toolkit controls, which I think is a good idea. I've played around with both, and also Expressions Blend, and have been surprised at how quickly I've been able to create prototypes for my various "experiments".

Microsoft Health's Common User Interface guidelines appear to be user-friendly for developers, which might ensure that user-friendly applications for healthcare eventually get into the hands of health workers and patients alike. This is important.

Related Thoughts:
Last year, I read an article in Pervasive Computing about new technologies that might prove to be useful to health care workers. Despite the efforts of researchers to incorporate user-centered design concepts and usability studies during the development of health care software, health care workers continue to be frustrated with technology.

Since I've found myself on the receiving end of user-unfriendly technology for most of my working life, I decided to write a letter to the editor of Pervasive Computing and offer a solution or two. Why not harness power of the 100,000+ nurses who've participated longitudinal studies about womens' health, and apply their knowledge by inviting them to play a role in user-centered development and usability testing of software for the health care industry?

More thoughts...

I was thinking about the Games for Health conference I attended last week and how developers could go about conducting usability studies for their games. Developers of health-oriented games and related applications should also consider tapping into this great resource. Nurses are represented in all facets of health care, and their hands-on experiences with patients could inform the development of user-friendly and useful health games.

Pervasive Health Care, Pervasive Games for Health:

I envision that in the near future, mini-health games, along with health-monitoring applications, will be widely available on mobile phones and other mobile devices. Wouldn't it be fun to play a health game on your mobile while waiting for your medical appointment?

I've noticed that many clinics and pharmacies now have large screens running health info-mercials. Wouldn't it be cool to harness the display for some serious health gaming?

One place to start might be at CVS minute-clinics. These clinics are led by nurse practitioners and supported by a medical doctor in another location, and offer care to a large number of people, close to where they live.

Audio about CVS Minute Clinics
Minute Clinic Website
American Well: The next generation of health communication

Related World Health Care Blog Posts:
The New Place for Health Care is Everywhere
EMR's Might Work for Physicians in PHM
EMR "The Movie"- Coming Soon (Maybe)
On the Coming "Everyware" Bubble in Health Care

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