The Snapshot-in-Time Design
There are two basic EHR designs for presenting the patient information that accumulates over time (see my last post).
By far, the most common EHR design solution is to display a summary screen of the patient’s current health information, organized by category (Problem List, Past Medical History, Medications, and so forth). Past information is available in date-sorted lists or indicated by start and stop dates.
The other design solution is to display a series of snapshots that capture the state of the patient’s health at successive points in time. While this design was at the core of paper-based charting (see Why T-Sheets Work), it is an uncommon EHR design.
In my opinion, the snapshot-in-time design has three advantages:
- It supports our notion of causality – we see how earlier events affect subsequent ones.
- The patient’s story is presented as a narrative that gradually unfolds. Humans excel at using narrative to organize and make sense of complex data.
- Perhaps most importantly, a series of visual snapshots allows us to makes sense of abstract data by organizing it in visual space.
The following EHR screen mockups display a patient’s story as snapshots in time. While these illustrations are for an ambulatory EHR, the design works equally well for hospital-based systems.
To see the mockups, click on the PowerPoint link below. Once PowerPoint is open, expand the view by clicking on the full screen button in the lower right corner (indicated by arrow).
Rick Weinhaus MD practices clinical ophthalmology in the Boston area. He trained at Harvard Medical School, The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and the Neuroscience Unit of the Schepens Eye Research Institute. He writes on how to design simple, powerful, elegant user interfaces for electronic health records (EHRs) by applying our understanding of human perception and cognition. He welcomes your comments and thoughts on this post and on EHR usability issues. E-mail Dr. Rick.