It’s been a while that I stipulated that it would be wonderful for those of us in the IT industry to take a closer look at our users. Be it that we’re developing applications, virtualization platforms, data structures, or whatever else, it would be good for us to understand our users’ and customers’ needs and desires by spending time with them and understanding their work and their business.
Since the iPad just launched this weekend and there are numerous excited as well as discouraging blogs and tweets flying around, I figured I’d latch on to the buzzword of the day and provide my perspective – specifically as devices, software and IT support pertain to healthcare IT.

Steve Huffman of Memorial Health System recently talked about moving his EMR implementation to the CPOE (Computerized Physician Order Entry) phase, in which users become a lot less tolerant towards “Device Issues”. Steve explains that perceived device issues were actually application issues and had nothing to do with the device and that his organization needed to sort out system issues to arrive at device acceptance.

That’s right. I’d even go a step further and like to point out that the user doesn’t care nearly as much about the technology as we in the industry do. Not at all. There are doctors and nurses and lawyers and engineers and all kinds of professional around, so the system as a whole has to make their life easier. That’s why our job sometimes feels hard to accomplish. Just because we love gadgets and think the iPad is cool, doesn’t mean that a doctor treating a patient cares.

For example, I like my car. It drives well, I like how it looks and that I can put the top down. Should something not work, I want it fixed. I may say something like “There’s something wrong with the engine – it doesn’t accelerate well any more.” I don’t care if it’s the engine, the injection system, the ignition system, the software holding it all together – I want it fixed. I don’t need a mechanic telling me “Hey – it’s not the engine, it’s the ignition system. Your engine is fine”. Really? The car as a whole is not, though.

Back to the device discussion. Users are starting to try out the iPad in clinical settings to see what they can do with it. I noticed two items: 

  1. It does fit into a doctors lab coat - which is great and alleviates problems associated with holding it while trying to touch the patient.
  2. It’s great for a portable clinical reference and watching movies. Not so much for an EMR app quite yet.

These are all great examples of users trying to figure out how to use this new device and providing insightful ideas. Having passionate professional field test a new kind of device and providing ideas and feedback will move the industry towards implementing new and better systems.  After all, we’d want to make sure that we’re not failing the Pepsi test and answering the problem with New Coke.

Let’s always make sure that we look at EMR implementations from the users’ point of view in all aspects – software, devices, access modalities, mobility etc. Shortcomings in either link of the chain can spoil the user experience and limit adaptation.


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