Sample Essay on Improving the Usability of Health Information Application

Improving the Usability of Health Information Application

According to Armijo, McDonnell, & Werner (2009), usability issues in health information technology applications are a contemporary national concern. They demonstrate the usability of health informatics software and evaluate the usability of major EHR systems provided by vendors. Stead and Lin (2009) stated that unless health IT applications support the cognitive process of system users, it could even worsen healthcare in the future. The issues of usability can result in decrease in productivity, errors, treatment delays, extreme user’s frustration, deinstallation, and underutilization of applications, extra support personnel to install and maintain systems, overt and covert resistance to applications, and the need for substantial funding to redesign and remedy problems.

The current usability issues pertaining health information technology applications include new errors in health care, adoption of uneven clinical applications, high costs that are associated with unusable systems, reduced provider productivity, and unintended consequences. It is interchangeable with human computer interaction. Here, specific users in specific context use products to achieve predefined goals with efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction. Therefore, the principles and practices of usability can help to prevent these costs to organization and individuals.

The term human factor in this synopsis is used to describe the interactions between human and tools of all kinds. It is an evaluation of how work is performed within the layout of a hospital in an intensive care unit. Usability and HCI goals lead to creation of advanced technology so that to improve decision making and making of technology to become more useful, safe, satisfying, and efficient to use. There are all embedded within the broader concepts of human factor. The term ergonomics is majorly concerned with human performance as it relates to the physical characteristics of systems, tools, and machines as stated by (Dix, Finlay, Abowd, & Beale 2004). It focuses on design of safety, comfort, and convenience. Examples of ergonomics issues include nurses complaining that a workstation on wheels is too bulky, heavy, and is not convenient to take into a patient room.

Human computer interaction is the study of how people implement, design, and evaluate interactive computer systems in the context of the users work and task. HCI blends cognitive or psychology science, applied work in computer science, sociology, and information science into the design, development, purchase, implementation, and evaluation of applications. When it comes to usability, it is a subset of HCI and one of its major components. The term usability is defined as the extent to which a product can be used by specific users in a specific context so that to achieve specific goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction according to the International Standards Organization.

Effectiveness, efficiency, and user satisfaction are the three main goals usability. Effectiveness involves usefulness and safety, while efficiency includes: productivity, cost, and learnability. Perceived effectiveness and perceived efficiency are derived from satisfaction. The three axioms of usability are:

  • An early and central focus on users in the design and development of systems.
  • Iterative design of applications
  • Systematic usability measures or observation of users and information systems.

The following are types of usability test:

  • Exploratory Test: This type of usability study is conducted early during development or redesign after very basic or when preliminary designs are created. It requires extensive interaction between informaticists and users.
  • Assessment test: This test assesses lower level operations of the application, stressing the efficiency goals of the product and how well the task is presented to the users.
  • Validation test: This test assess how this particular product compares to a predetermined standard, benchmark, or performance measure as stated by (Rubin 2008).
  • Comparison test: It asses different technologies, or compare the elegance of designs from two vendors for a particular chemotherapy protocols. It consumes time and other resources.

Methods employed in usability are as follows:

  • Task analysis: It focuses on tasks and behavioral actions between computers and users with a system. In addition, it involves interviewing and observing users in their actual work sites.
  • Think aloud protocol: This technique enables users to talk aloud as they interact with an application. It is used in design, redesign, development, or evaluation of application at any time in the system life cycle.
  • Usability questionnaires: It is a questionnaire is used to address the systems that perceive usability.
  • Focused ethnographies: This is a method that entails fieldwork and analysis of people in cultural and social settings.

There are several usability methods. The common ones are: task analysis, think aloud protocols, cognitive walkthroughs, focused ethnographies, and usability questionnaires. The study of usability can be done at any point, although experts recommend to be done early and often. However, informatics can match the type of study to specific constraints of available resources. They learn and conduct discount usability test using usability inspection techniques, small-scale prototypes, and reduced numbers of users.

Planning and conducting usability test include has the following five steps:

  • Definition of purpose
  • Assessment of constraints
  • Use of an HCI framework to refine each component
  • Emphasis on components of interest
  • Matching methods to the purpose, constraints, and framework assessment.

Initially, expanding interest in usability has lead to the following: increased complexity of systems, ubiquitous computing, and computer-supported cooperative that work to ensure a role for informatics in this area.

In future, usability will provide interesting work for health informatics in the future. Research are being carried out to expand interest in usability, increased complexity of the systems, computing ubiquitous, and computer supported cooperative work. Many vendors product can benefit from structured usability testing, redesign, and public usability testing. The issues of usability will be forced to the surface by health IT users be design or redesigned into submission in the future. Currently, usability is now deemed critical enough that is expansion in the future is imperative. Informatics in future will be faced with even more complexity in system design and concomitant usability issues. HCI will become just HI since the computer and its display will effectively be invisible. Therefore, usability issues will still likely exist and health informatics will be challenged to work with less visible user interfaces. Now, the designing for usability is being considered only now; the reality is in future.

In conclusion, usability is the extent to which a product can be used by specific users in a specific context to achieve predefined goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction. Perceived effectiveness and perceived efficiency are derived from satisfaction. The test of usability vary from scale down studies and methods that offer economies of time, effort, detailed heuristic which cost more particularly in evaluations that compare applications against accepted guidelines or published usability principles.