NIH’s Biomedical Computing Group putting together a lecture on advanced clinical interfaces. The event was webcasted and the video is available here. If you’ve been doing good clinical interfaces for a while you’re not likely to find lots of new information in the lecture but it will reiterate some of the most important aspects of good design and user interfaces for complex systems like clinical decision support. If you’re new to healthcare IT, you will get a good deal of information on why designing easy to use interfaces for physicians is really hard to do right. I wanted to reach out and thank the folks at NIH for putting this together and will try to invite Dr. Turano to do a guest posting here.
The speaker, Dr. Augie Turano, prepared the following abstract:
Early computer interfaces were simple toggle switches on the machine’s front panel. Those were quickly replaced by punch cards and card readers. Eventually, keyboards were attached and the mouse soon followed. Single-user machines became multi-user. Text only screens were transformed into graphic interfaces that are more accessible to a broad audience. This evolution is continuous. After decades of growth, where are we today? This talk will focus on how we interact with computers. Even with tremendous compute power sitting on most every desktop, we often have a difficult time constructing simple useable interfaces to access critical data. Visualization and understanding data is critical to so many functions in our daily regimes, yet often neglected. Why are so many interfaces difficult to use? Popular consumer products (i.e., Xbox, Playstations, IPODS, cell phones) have shown that enhanced graphical interfaces are important. How can advances in consumer-driven technology be utilized in medicine? Can we leverage consumer software and medical data? What is the complexity involved?
Medicine is an information-based science yet we seem to have missed many opportunities to unite more advanced computer science techniques into mainstream healthcare. Often, clinical interfaces are primitive and interfaces between systems can be even worse. Software fails to be intrinsic to the treatment workflow, thereby making it inherently awkward to use from the start. Consequently, there is no truly adoptable single solution available that can attack the most fundamental of healthcare problems today, particularly the EHR (Electronic Health Record). There are difficulties exchanging data between computer systems. While interfaces such as HL7 and coding systems such as ICD9 and SNOMED try to help us structure data, they also create barriers to data exchange. Could knowledge bases and more expert systems be of assistance here? Why can physicians read and comprehend a report from a different HIS (Hospital Information System) system but the two HIS systems not be able to share data? Human/computer interactions such as natural language have been used in only very limited ways in medicine. Why should a physician be required to navigate a complicated menu structure just to get the value of a simple lab test? Instead, they should be able to quickly ask the computer while walking down the hallway to visit a patient in an exam room “What was Mr. Jones last PSA value?”
This talk will demonstrate interface enhancements such as graphing, and natural language queries that can be implemented with clinical data. Also some advanced statistical analysis that can easily be done by anyone utilizing data mining with forecasting, trending and prediction wired to Excel will be performed. Many interesting and novel interfaces on the horizon both in hardware and software will be shown and discussed in relation to their implications to medical science and healthcare. These types of interfaces could save countless healthcare providers time and even more importantly, allow them to keep their cognitive focus, hopefully improving patient care.
Dr. Turano’s bio:
Augie Turano is a solution architect in the IT Logistic Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has held positions at Microsoft as Federal Healthcare team architect, system architect for HP, and director of IT services at MedChek a commercial clinical laboratory. Augie received a BS in chemistry, and Ph.D. in structural biophysics at the University of Pittsburgh. His Ph.D. research involved the molecular structure determination of Vitamin B1 and protein structures, and calculation of the electron density distribution of several molecules. Augie was part of the original development team that created the VA’s VistA HIS system and continues to work in evolving that system. He also was CIO for a VA critical care hospital system with several sites for many years in Pittsburgh. He was recognized nationally on several occasions and received a White House commendation from former President Bush for work on pharmaceutical programs for the VA. Part of his ongoing work is to explore new hardware, software, and network technologies for potential use in the Veterans Healthcare system. Lately Augie has been focusing on software design, and data mining and its application in pattern recognition and rule discovery in VA datasets. Augie also is an Adjunct professor at the University Pittsburgh in the School of Health Related Professions, where he teaches graduate technology classes related to healthcare.