When reducing clicks isn’t the right thing to do
Clinician burden is an important topic in the world of health IT. Addressing clinician burden requires a system approach as there are external and internal factors that affect clinician experience.
Every stakeholder across the industry must do its part to improve clinician experience. Health IT solutions should help, not hinder clinicians. Allscripts has a commitment to clinician well-being and is currently reducing clinician burden thorough several efforts.
On a recent Allscripts On Call podcast, I talked about some of the misconceptions around clinician burden and how some well-intentioned efforts – to reduce clicks and scrolling, for example – impact our users in ways that they don’t realize.
Focusing on click reduction can lead to additional burden
As the healthcare system became more complex, people focused on the electronic health record (EHR) and the number of clicks that it took to do even simple tasks. Though it is true we should make sure every click is necessary, we are realizing that reducing clicks isn’t always the answer to reducing burden.
Putting more information and navigation on the page to make everything one click away creates a new problem. It’s harder for users to process information with smaller fonts and crowded screens. We’ve shifted the burden from a physical one to a cognitive one. And cognitive burden has a greater impact on users and their performance than a physical load.
Scrolling is not the enemy
I’ve learned from talking to clinicians that something they hate almost as much as clicking is scrolling. Vendors try to solve this with smaller font, longer lines of text, and squished information, which increases cognitive burden, slows performance and negatively impacts accuracy.
White space reduces cognitive load
We as humans find comfort in limited “wasted space,” but this brings some potential negatives when we’re talking about interfaces. There’s a lot of science on how large amounts of information displayed can negatively impact speed and quality of decision making. We need to recognize that white space can be used to reduce cognitive load.
Design to deliver on clinician goals, not reducing clicks
When a user tells me there are too many clicks, they’re really trying to achieve an underlying goal. Users evaluate our products on how well the features help them to meet their goals. This applies to clicks. Whenever someone tells me that they want less clicks, I ask why? It’s the “why” that should be the focus of design efforts. We’ll never gain success if we don’t design to deliver on the higher-level goal.
My advice is to focus on the cognitive load that health IT brings and how we can deliver to achieve clinician goals. Allscripts recognizes that health IT must go beyond general usability to improve clinician experience, by supporting users with better insights, advice and ways to save time and effort. We will share our learnings to help the industry advance its progress with clinician wellness.