Key Strategies for Minimizing Human Error in Digital Healthcare Software

“Testing leads to failure, and failure leads to understanding.” Burt Rutan

Healthcare is the next growth frontier for software solutions because of the benefits and cost-savings it brings to a traditionally paper-run industry.
Healthcare providers and their partners are increasingly adopting digital healthcare software platforms, and this is ushering in an era of rising healthcare quality and falling healthcare cost. It’s about time. We’ve all heard the infamous reports lambasting the healthcare systems for excessive spending while failing to live up to high standards of care.

Well, digital healthcare solutions have come to save the day!

The digital health solutions I am referring to in this article include all types of interconnected health systems that aid healthcare professionals and patients manage illness and health care risk as well as promote health. These include Electronic Medical Records (EMRs), ePrescribing where prescriptions can be sent directly to pharmacies electronically, patient portal where patients can access their health records and communicate with doctors etc.
Having said this, the adoption of digital healthcare solutions has been bumpy because many platforms are complex and difficult to navigate. To smooth out these bumps, digital healthcare software must become more user-friendly and healthcare professionals must know how to use these platforms correctly.

Usability in Digital Healthcare Software is a Critical Factor

When examining usability I look at the following principles highlighted by computer science Professor Ben Shneiderman and Dr. Jakob Nielsen:

1. Learnability. The ease with which users can accomplish basic tasks the first time they use the solution.
2. Efficiency. The speed with which users can perform tasks once they are familiar with the solution.
3. Memorability. The ease of “getting back up to speed” after a period of not using the solution.
4. Errors. The number of user-made errors, their severity and the ease with which they can be corrected.
5. Satisfaction. User ratings of how much they enjoy using the solution.
The adherence of digital healthcare software to these usability metrics has particular importance in the healthcare sector because the consequences of errors can be grave. There have been serious unintended consequences that have risen out of the improper usage of digital healthcare solutions that jeopardize the integrity of patient health information and thus decrease quality of care.
Improper system use is oftentimes the result of the complexity of the system, a user interface that may not be 100% user-friendly and the limitations of the user. Especially because of the pressure to rapidly adopt these systems, human error is a problem that must be curbed.

What steps can you take to prevent these errors? Here are key strategies for helping to reduce digital healthcare software errors:

1) Measuring and Understanding User Behavior within the Platform

Effective usability can be achieved by maintaining constant awareness of your users’ needs throughout the software development process. Designing healthcare systems that are user-driven requires knowledge of how healthcare professionals and patients use the system. Thus, first research what your users’ needs and expectations are from the digital healthcare software package. Then, once the software is up and running, it must be tested and evaluated until you understand how friendly the software is according to the usability principles listed above.

The next stage is gathering user feedback through surveys. The Electronic Health Record (EHR) system that links the 37 Kaiser hospitals in the US took five years (and $4 billion) to fully deploy because they were constantly testing, evaluating and then improving the system as they went.
Once you understand what processes your users need to do within the system, and where they are having problems with the interface, you can act to remove bottlenecks and help users get past common problems.

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2) Effective Real-Time User Training in How to Use the Platform

Research firm, KLAS, interviewed roughly 300 healthcare providers who use SaaS EMRs and found that speed with which problems are solved, or questions are answered, is critical to the success of the program. One healthcare provider told KLAS, “When we have a problem, we can’t wait two weeks. We can’t wait even five minutes.”
Eliminate any questions before they arise by investing in a proper training program to get everyone up to speed. Blended learning, where a portion of the training is traditional face-to-face instruction and a portion is web-based online learning, typically offers the best results. For the web-based portion, online guidance systems are becoming the new standard. When overlaid with the healthcare software program, these systems provides specific and clear instructions on how to complete specific tasks within systems through interactive balloon tips. They provide instructions in real time and eliminate the frustration and guesswork that surfaces with complex software.

You can learn more about the important role UX takes in shaping digital healthcare by downloading our White Paper. Claim your copy by filling in the form below:

Megan Wilson
Megan Wilson is user experience specialist & editor of UX Motel. She is also the Quality Assurance and UX Specialist at WalkMe Megan.w(at)walkme.com
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