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Health + Tech | The importance of ease of use for healthcare IT

Many types of health technology software have become available over the last decade and the world is moving swiftly towards digitising healthcare systems. The rapid changes that we have experienced in technology over the last decades have not matched user acceptance. Some societies are slower than others to adopt technology. In these areas, technology penetration is generally low, and people sometimes view new technology with suspicion.

In addition, coupled with the slow adoption of technology across healthcare systems, people tend to be creatures of habit and are more likely to want to stick to a routine. This is why, in general, ease of use, especially with new technology, is vital, but even more so in societies whose populations do not readily accept changes and advances in technology.

In our milieu, technological ignorance also plays a role in the slow acceptance and use of technology. Our customer service IT technicians can attest to this. We have seen where people call for assistance with software and do not know how to open or find an icon on their computer. When they are told to check on their desktop, they tell the technician that they can’t because they are using a laptop. This is a real-life scenario and we have had several similar encounters, where people are unable to take basic instructions from IT personnel because of IT ignorance. These people will not be able to quickly adapt to anything that is technical and requires them to have more than perfunctory IT knowledge.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed a standard definition of usability as “the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which specified users achieve specified goals in particular environments”. This applies to every user, including healthcare workers, administrators, and clients. The nature of the healthcare business requires a high level of efficiency and ease. Doctors often have several patients for the day, nurses must manage a ward with each patient needing specific timely care, and in the case of emergency, workers cannot afford to be slowed down by technology when they should be focused on saving lives.

One of the things to consider when focusing on the ease of use of software is how many steps it takes to complete a simple task. If users get frustrated or struggle to complete a task, or if they cannot easily advance with the task from start to finish, then there may be usability issues and a sign that the usability of the software solution is not optimal.

According to cmswire.com, the number of errors or requests for assistance to complete a task within software and the time it takes to complete a task can be clear signs of usability issues. But how do you determine these things prior to purchasing software? The answer is to ensure that you get a demonstration of the software and include at least one category of people who will have to use it to get their feedback. If it is software that can be customised, you can easily request the changes you need to improve use specific to your business.

Interoperability is another important consideration. This speaks to how easily the software chosen will be able to link with your existing systems and machinery to provide you with a seamless process. Most technology, hardware included, are now HL7 compatible, enabling interoperability. This is an important question to ask your technology provider.

Importantly, to enable ease of use and implementation of new software, a change management plan must be instituted as part of the overall project. This must be the starting point of implementation. Otherwise, it will be difficult to get buy-in, which can derail the project. Change management assures people of their role after the technology implementation and allows for their full participation in implementation and learning. Their willingness to learn the software is important to ensure that it is used correctly and efficiently to improve the organisation’s business processes, health management and customer interaction and satisfaction.

The point of putting in place new software is to ensure more efficiency in an organisation. In the case of healthcare, this includes having easily accessible centralised data and linkages with various departments and care encounter points for improvement in their business processes and customer satisfaction.
Doug Halsall is the chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Email feedback to doug.halsall@gmail.com and editorial@gleanerjm.com.

Published: Sunday | July 30, 2023 | 12:07 AM