(Note: Part 1 of this series is here, part 2 is here, part 3 is here, part 4 is here, part 5 is here, part 6 is here, part 7 is here, and part 8 is here. 2011 addendums: a post that can be considered part 9 is here, part 10 is here.)
Want to make a doctor or nurse miserable?
Want to up the odds for error?
Simply force them to review lab results on a screen as sloppily designed and cluttered as this one:
What technical genius programmed this monstrosity? The clutter is enough to impair the best clinicians who have to use such screens day in and day out on their often substantial patient loads.
How is such a screen better than paper?
Does the clinician really need to see subcomponents of panels such as General Chemistry split up all over the place, into sections of columns? Perhaps monolithic columns and horizontal scrolling would be less cognitively taxing? More columns, of course, could be placed in the available screen width if space were not wasted by ... units and Abn's!
Does the clinician really need to see "Abn" as opposed to, say, "A" for abnormals? (At least the abnormals are actually marked in this application, unlike here in "Warning! No warnings!)
Does the clinician need to see units such as mg/dL (milligrams pre deciliter) and mEq/L (milliequivalents per liter) on each and every lab value? Correction - on ANY lab value?
Could not that information be placed - once - in the column or row headers?
(Oh, wait ... as shown here, those headers in some products have a tendency to scroll away, forcing the "track the value with your finger" method of medical error prevention!)
Then there's this, just in from Down Under on clinical decision support, touted as one of the most important benefits of HIT:
Objective: To investigate the quality of drug interaction decision support in selected prescribing and dispensing software systems, and to compare this information with that found in a range of reference sources.
Design and setting: A comparative study, conducted between June 2006 and February 2007, of the support provided for making decisions about 20 major and 20 minor drug interactions in six prescribing and three dispensing software systems used in primary care in Australia. Five electronic reference sources were evaluated for comparison
Results: Six of the nine software systems had a sensitivity rate ≥ 90%, detecting most of the major interactions. Only 3/9 systems had a specificity rate of ≥ 80%, with other systems providing inappropriate or unhelpful alerts for many minor interactions. Only 2/9 systems provided adequate information about clinical effects for more than half the major drug interactions, and 1/9 provided useful management advice for more than half of these. The reference sources had high sensitivity and in general provided more comprehensive clinical information than the software systems.
More in part 8.