Usability evaluation of a commercial inpatient portal.

Yen PY, Walker DM, Smith JMG, Zhou MP, Menser TL, McAlearney AS
Int J Med Inform 110 10-18 02/01/2018

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Patient portals designed for inpatients have potential to increase patient engagement. However, little is known about how patients use inpatient portals. To address this gap, we aimed to understand how users 1) interact with, 2) learn to use, and 3) communicate with their providers through an inpatient portal.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted a usability evaluation using think-aloud protocol to study user interactions with a commercially available inpatient portal - MyChart Bedside (MCB). Study participants (n=19) were given a tablet that had MCB installed. They explored MCB and completed eight assigned tasks. Each session's recordings were coded and analyzed. We analyzed task completion, errors, and user feedback. We categorized errors into operational errors, system errors, and tablet-related errors, and indicated their violations of Nielsen's ten heuristic principles.

RESULTS: Participants frequently made operational errors with most in navigation and assuming non-existent functionalities. We also noted that participants' learning styles varied, with age as a potential factor that influenced how they learned MCB. Also, participants preferred to individually message providers and wanted feedback on status.

CONCLUSION: The design of inpatient portals can greatly impact how patients navigate and comprehend information in inpatient portals; poor design can result in a frustrating user experience. For inpatient portals to be effective in promoting patient engagement, it remains critical for technology developers and hospital administrators to understand how users interact with this technology and the resources that may be necessary to support its use.

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