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Can Effective End User Interface Design Really Accelerate the Adoption of Predictive Analytics in Healthcare? I believe the answer is “ABSOLUTELY!”

Aug 16 2012

Predictive Analytics  are a powerful tool; of that there can be no doubt. However, like any tool, it only serves a purpose if it fulfills a useful function and almost as importantly is easy–to-use in fulfilling that purpose. For example, I can use a rock to drive a nail into a board, but the rock is hard to hold, difficult to use gently, easily breakable, etc. Ease of use for any tool means being able to complete a  task as easily as possible, with minimum frustration, every single time.  The same concept applies to the user interface (UI) of a seriously powerful tool like predictive analytics. The UI has to be effortless and intuitive, particularly if the end user is not a “super-user” and instead is a mere mortal who has  many other things to do in their busy life (like most of us!).

We would all agree that our smartphones are powerful tools that enable us to communicate, work more efficiently and play, well more playfully. Take your phone and look, really look, at the UI. The friendly little screen packed with all those icons, allows anyone over the age of five to use the thing (and in my case more effectively)! Look how easy it is check to emails, surf the web, take and send pictures, maintain and use your list of contacts, listen to your music library… you get the idea. Now imagine if you had to type multiple arcane commands to get your apps to work and the output, even better, was paragraphs of 8-font papyrus text  or indecipherable graphics. How excited would you be about using your smartphone now? How efficient and effortless would this tool make your life? The thing would likely be a paper-weight or given to your teenage genius to autopsy.

Stephen Few, a leading authority  on the effective visual communication of data, points out exactly what I’m talking about in his book, Information Dashboard Design, “The problem is not technology, but poor visual design. To serve their purpose and fulfill their potential, dashboards [and UIs] must display a dense array of information in a small amount of space in a manner that communicates clearly and immediately.”  He further notes that those who are designing the end-user experience must understand not only how it is going to get used, but who is going to use it or run the risk of having  the slickest, coolest software  that never gets used.  So, what this boils down to is that effective user interfaces are CRITICAL to technology adoption.

Currently, the Healthcare industry is just beginning to use predictive analytics. If the interface of this tool is not as effortless to navigate as a smart phone, this potentially transformative technology will be quickly discarded by the nurses and doctors who won’t see any value in a tool that doesn’t make their lives easier and more efficient.  If we don’t pay attention to the details of how the end user will interact with the output predictive analytics won’t transform anything and trust me, healthcare can’t afford to not be positively transformed.

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