Last Thursday, the World Usability Day (WUD) 2007, I went to TorCHI's special event celebrating WUD. It was nice to greet people attending the event with "Happy World Usability Day" and got equally warm greetings back. A friend of mine told me that she sent out a WUD greeting email to her colleagues at the design team earlier that day and was disappointed that nobody replied her back. I think as UX designers or usability practitioners, we carry the mission to raise people's awareness in good usable design. We need to be first excited about the World Usability Day and make a big deal of it. Organizers of TorCHI, Harumi and ILONA pulled off a great event this year. The picture on the left are organizers and speakers for TorCHI WUD event.
Some of the key points from the presentations at the event got me thinking.
Usability in healthcare is especially critical. This is not because this year's WUD theme is healthcare. Anjum Chagpar from University Health Network told a very powerful and extremely sad story of a mother of two died of drug overdose. The overdose was resulted from a series of poorly designed systems which confused nurses to input the deadly amount of drug intake for 4 hours that was supposed to be taken in 4 days. After hearing the story, I can't help to think how many patients died every year because of human errors resulted from bad usability. FDA now requires Human Factor to be part of design process for medical equipment. HF needs to be more than just part of the design process. In my opinion, it should lead the design process for not only medical equipment but all the medical processes such as diagnose, lab tests, surgery, etc. Usability error in healthcare is fatal.
Web 2.0 and eHealth enable the shared decision making between doctors and patients. All the web2.0 phenomenon can be applied to eHealth. I never thought about eHealth in the context of web2.0 much before the presentation from Holly Witteman, PhD candidate from UofT. She talked about YouTube and Flickr were not designed for eHealth but people are using them to get health related information. In the web2.0 world, everyone can contribute information, then the credibility of health information is especially important. One usability problem is to help users identify credible information more easily. When patients have lots of information available to them, they also like to participate in their health decision making with doctors. This will essentially change the doctor and patient relationship, especially when patients take an active role in diagnosing their problems or figuring out a treatment plan.
Integrating paper and electronic health record is challenging. ILONA gave a reality check-up at doctor's offices and compared paper-based vs. electronic-based offices. Then we had a chance to chat with a physician, Dr. Paul Ponsner. It's probably really hard to have a paperless office. However, no matter paper-based or electronic-based office, we need to make sure important notices can be seen by patients easily. The procedure of gathering and reporting patient information needs to be designed to minimize human errors and be as efficient as possible. Electronic record is much easier to manipulate, analyze, and share than paper record. However, paper record is much more natural and easier to produce. The challenging design problem is to take the advantage of both approaches
It's absolutely necessary to hear usability problems on WUD, but I also want to hear some great usability examples in the future. I'd like to thank all the people who made a big deal of WUD and raised the usability awareness in healthcare.