Software User Interface Redesign

Today I opened up a web browser and eventually made it to Twitter to see what was going on. I was greeted by the not so friendly Twitter site redesign. If you’re on the Twitter page at all, you won’t miss it. To be honest, it felt like going to a foreign land. I use a number of tools for Twitter, but my favorite is just going to the Twitter website to consume and send my @techguy tweets. Although, maybe I should say it WAS my favorite place.

Yes, change is always hard, but isn’t that kind of the point? Was there any announcement about the change before it happened? Nope! Did they give users a chance to try the new interface before they made a wholesale swap to the new interface? Nope. Google’s actually done this really well recently with things like Gmail. They’ve made the new interface available, but you can always click back to the old interface if you don’t like. That way they can solicit feedback and improve the new interface while still not alienating those that love the old interface.

In my example on Twitter, I quickly was able to identify the thing that annoys me most. When I click on someone’s Twitter name it gives me a pop up box for that person. Before it use to have that appear on the side. It’s a small subtle change, but makes a huge difference since on the side I can continue consuming tweets, but in a pop up box I have to remove it before I continue on.

I could go on about the new Twitter, but the point is that software vendors have to be careful when they change the user interface. Maybe this new Twitter interface will even grow on me. I didn’t like the last time they changed the Twitter interface either, but once I found some of the secret features I came around for the most part. Maybe I’ll come around on this too, but it would have been nice if I knew it was coming.

What does this have to do with EMR?

The connection seems quite clear to me. EMR and EHR companies have to be really careful and considerate when they change their EHR interface. Give users options to be able to try it and to adapt to it over time. With a sort of limited opt in release of a new EMR interface to an active user base, you’ll likely get a lot of pointed feedback for the new EMR interface. Certainly you’ll get the useless “I hate the new look” emails without any value. However, you’ll also get the pointed emails that provide constructive ideas on things you probably didn’t realize were important in the old EMR interface.

Most SaaS EHR companies are constantly considering this since they’re rolling out changes to their software all the time. Client server based EHR software also takes it into account, but this can be shown and taught as each client is upgraded.

The main point is to be thoughtful of and upgrade to your EHR user interface. Get feedback and whenever possible let them opt in and out of the new interface so you don’t alienate your users.

While I may not be totally enamored by the new Twitter interface, I do always love new features in software. For example, as part of the new Twitter interface there’s a feature that lets you embed tweets. Here’s a few EMR related tweets to see how it works.


And then some big news from GE and Microsoft that just came out:

Hmmm…still looks like they have some work to complete on their embedded tweets (UPDATE: The preview looked different from when it’s posted. It’s not too bad in the actual post). Sounds like many doctors talking about EHR features that get rolled out.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

4 Comments

  • Would agree that vendors need to test interfaces with users a bit more prior to launching them. Verizon FIOS had a great TV guide interface and abruptly changed it recently. Even my college age daughter thought the new interface was “lame”.

    Back to EHRs….what’s up with Costco getting into EHRs and PMs????

  • Yes, Costco and Sam’s Club have been doing EHR stuff for a while. Here’s an article where I mentioned Costco EHR back in April: https://www.healthcareittoday.com/2011/04/03/some-perspective-acos-costco-emr-and-april-fools-day/ and 4-5 posts on Sam’s Club: https://www.healthcareittoday.com/tag/walmart/

    The scary part is that some EHR vendor told me a story where they’d almost made a sale and then the sales process got hi-jacked by a doctor in the practice seeing a Sam’s Club ad. Down the drain went all the initial evaluation work they’d done. Something’s wrong with that story.

  • Yes, I agree there are both workflow and patient safety issues in interface updates that are best approached using human factors engineering.

    It’s important to be clear what proposed changes are trying to accomplish in an update – and to scrutinize impact on workflow (and ultimately to patient safety) before implementing an update.

    Subsequent testing in a live or very realistic environment using non-employees is equally important before go-live.

  • The best EMR interfaces i’ve seen come from two different products with the same approach. They have a simple navigation bar they locate on any edge of the tablet and the interface is an identical re-creation of the facilities chart packages. As someone who has delivered training on several medical management products I can tell you there are few things worse than having to tell a someone, “this is now how you will …” As a trainer I know my product and more importantly I respect my audience for their expertise and I cringe when I go into situations with inflexible interfaces. As a side note, of those two products, other than the buy in I see from the staff when they realize its their chart packs they are working on, the discussion started in regards to process improvement and documentation is usually very positive as well. This is something that can be difficult to get moving in some facilities until an issue like this comes along. When the learning curve is reduced and the possibilities are presented I’ve seen a lot of great “teams” form from already existing staff.
    As for Sam’s Club and Costco EMR’s, right now everyone is selling an emr. At least those companies have a history and a potential return policy. 🙂

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