Usability as Organizational Strategy in Healthcare

Let's face it, we interact with technology in almost every aspect of our daily lives; both at home and at work.  We're constantly looking for ways to leverage the power of technology to make our work lives easier.  This is why usability and 'ease of use' as an organizational strategy can make a huge difference to employees and employees alike.

In a HIMSS webinar, Jane Hunt (2014) discusses that the best way to understand human-centered design - in terms of the active involvement of users - is a clear understanding of the user, and the tasks that they are trying to complete.

Usability maturity models

She proposes using the usability maturity models to measure organizational human centeredness on a scale. The usability maturity models can be used to place orgaizations on a scale from zero usability awareness to the implementation and optimization of formal usability practices. The ultimate goal is to raise awareness for a need to incorporate user experience (UX) beyond the user interface (UI). The Usability Maturity Model can be considered as a guide for healthcare organizations to measure their approach to UX. This can apply directly to the point of care setting, as well as to the products that vendors supply.

Nancy Staggers and Melanie Rodney propose the Health Usability Maturity Model which is made up of five phases:

  1. Unrecognized - Lack of awareness of usability. No practices, policies or resources
  2. Preliminary - Sporadic inclusion of usability. Very limited resources
  3. Implemented - Recognized value of usability. Small team doing usability
  4. Integrated - All benchmarks of usability implemented including a dedicated user experience team
  5. Strategic - Business benefit well understood, usability mandated, budget and people part of each year’s budget, results used strategically throughout the organization
Image Credit: Promoting Usability in Organizations with a New Health Usability Model: Implications for Nursing Informatics by Nancy Staggers and Melanie Rodney

Image Credit: Promoting Usability in Organizations with a New Health Usability Model: Implications for Nursing Informatics by Nancy Staggers and Melanie Rodney

The strategic phase (the highest level of usability maturity) can be described as a time when the business rationale behind usability activities are implemented and analyzed for all products and services. Purchase processes include usability evaluation as part of the due diligence process. Usability activities are standardized rather than in silos. Usability training both internally and with external design & development teams.

Benefits of usability maturity models in healthcare

The benefits of good usability include improved efficiency, effectiveness, and ease of use for the individual, provider, or organization:

  1. Patient safety by means of decreased harm through misuse of software or devices
  2. Provider safety - decreased risk of litigation related to error, better productivity, and positive impact on career
  3. Organizational (clinical and vendor) safety - capturing meaningful data which is supportive of "corporate" strategy; decreased training time/funding, with more focused training; and a careful evaluation of system processes workflows, with a decrease of poorly designed environment-to-software interactions.

Driving success through usability

In summary, to evaluate an organization with a usability maturity model, the existing corporate system should be assessed. The organization itself, any organizational champions, the road map to success, and the five phases (clinical, financial, regulatory, logistical, and contractual) should be measured constantly. Implementing the Usability Maturity Model with measured effect can take a number of years, it is a long-term project. Organizations should realize that good user experience and usable products are equal to business value.


nicholas tenhue profile

Nicholas Tenhue is a user experience expert who currently serves as User Experience Manager at Orion Health. An alumnus of Microsoft Ventures, Nicholas also manages theuxblog.com, and hosts The UX Blog Podcast.