Usability

Patient Recognition Month Poster

Patient Recognition Month Poster (Photo credit: Army Medicine)

I was recently talking to a nurse friend who still works at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, California where I was employed in x-ray before we moved to Utah. The old hospital was torn down and rebuilt in stages to meet California earthquake standards. She was lamenting the fact that the new hospital ward on which she works is not as easy to work on as it was before the rebuilding. I have noted too that the x-ray rooms in Utah had problems for the techs and the patients. Patient rooms had issues too in their design that made accessing a patient for care more difficult than it needed to be. Patient gurneys made connecting a patient to oxygen difficult because oxygen bottles were added as an afterthought instead of standing upright at the head of the gurney to make the controls easily accessible.

I gave thought to her complaints and my experiences and came up with the following suggestion to improve usability. Rather than design hospitals and other facilities from architect and administration input, I think that a portion of proposed facilities should be constructed as models that workers can test both as care givers and as role players portraying patients to test designs before they are constructed. As it is done now, people must fit themselves to the facility. It should be the other way around; facilities should fit themselves to the people who use them. Eventually standard designs would evolve that could be implemented nationally.

Limited warranty

A patient having his blood pressure taken by a...

Image via Wikipedia

Before my recent retirement, I spent more than 20 years in the healthcare industry, mostly in hospitals and much of that time in direct patient care, often in the ER. There are patterns that become evident over time. Accidents often occur in groups of three. Patients start showing up at age 50 unless they are involved in an accident. To explain why we received most patients at age 50 or higher, I developed this little story which I sometimes used to explain the situation.

Each of us comes from our Maker with a limited warranty on parts and labor which expires at age 50. Every day after age 50 is a gift for which we should be thankful.