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July 10, 2013 Readers Write No Comments

Asking the Right Questions: How to Find the Right Technology Development Partner
By Lee Farabaugh

7-10-2013 5-54-37 PM

We’ve all heard the stories. A hospital implements technology only to discover that it is so complex and confusing that it takes clinicians twice as long to get their work done as it did before, frustrating providers and patients. The hospital tries to work through the issues to no avail, and the organization ultimately abandons the software in pursuit of something else.

Money, time, and resources are wasted, and the organization is still no closer to effectively leveraging technology to improve patient care or streamline efficiencies. On the other hand, there are technology implementations that go smoothly, with providers fully embracing an application and using it appropriately.

What differentiates the good from the bad? User experience design, centered on end user input. Positive outcomes (increased user adoption, for example) occur when end users are actively involved in technology design, development and implementation.

To determine whether your technology partner incorporates user experience into its approach, there are some key questions you should ask. Getting answers to these questions can help you avoid disastrous technology roll-outs and ensure potential applications are a good fit for your organization.

Does your technology partner take a provider-centric approach by involving clinicians as key members of the development team?

These clinicians should be providers who have been actively involved in practicing medicine, so they are aware of the issues clinicians face in their day-to-day work. Getting direct input from providers who will use the system ensures that any potential roadblocks are addressed and resolved. Even if the technology you are considering is more patient-focused, clinicians should still be part of the development team. When people with medical expertise are involved in designing a patient-focused product, they can share the clinical perspective on what is possible and preferable for the technology.

How much of your technology partner’s research and development budget is devoted to garnering information about user experience?

This question can reveal the value your technology partner places on end user input. In other words, are they putting their money where their mouth is and dedicating resources to obtaining and leveraging user feedback?

Have you ever had a usability assessment on your application portfolio?

This puts hard data around your technology partner’s usability claims. By reviewing a usability assessment, you can clearly see whether providers or patients are actually using the software your partner developed on a long-term basis.

Does your technology partner have an end user group to provide ongoing feedback?

This type of forum can be a valuable source for transparent feedback about a solution. Not every software developer has the resources to sustain a user group for each of its clients, but those companies that do communicate their commitment to their customers and end user satisfaction. If your technology partner does have a user group, you may want to ask if you can attend a meeting. Although this may not be possible—some companies prefer to limit the number of attendees at a meeting—it would allow you to gain helpful information directly from other users.

Does your technology partner provide you with easy and intuitive training and support?

While some applications may be “plug and play,” most will require a certain level of training. Getting a sense of how user-friendly the training is can help provide insight around your technology partner’s commitment to user experience design across all of its materials. User-centered training may involve short videos, web-based modules or super-user mentoring. Ideally, you want to avoid day-long didactic training sessions that provide limited value and take providers away from patient care.

User experience design is the linchpin for technology adoption. Technology companies that don’t place value on user experience in the design and development process could offer products that aren’t fully usable and don’t meet the needs of your organization. As such, asking deliberate questions about your partner’s view on the value of user experience is time well spent.

Lee Farabaugh is the chief experience officer at PointClear Solutions.

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