Usability in healthcare: Overcoming the mismatch between information systems and clinical work

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


    Usability of clinical information technology (IT) systems is an ongoing topic of discussion. The systems should support healthcare professionals in their daily work with patients. However, critics indicate the prevalence of negative experiences and use related problems. The overall goal of the thesis is to examine the usability of current clinical IT systems from the viewpoint of physicians and nurses for the purposes of further user-centred system development. The thesis includes three empirical studies: a digital dictation study, evaluation of nursing documentation systems, and a national usability questionnaire study with physicians. The research was carried out utilizing contextual inquiry, interaction sequence illustration analysis, and tailored usability questionnaire methods. The research resulted in the following findings and conclusions. Currently used IT systems do not support the daily work and clinical tasks of clinicians well. This is due to numerous usability problems, and lack of computer support for multi-professional and cross-organizational collaboration between clinicians. Major improvements are needed to achieve the potential benefits clinical information and communication technology systems offer. Based on empirical studies, themes for potential improvements are: development of efficient and mobile documentation solutions, redesign of system user interfaces, solutions to support communication and collaboration, customisable and context-specific clinical IT systems, and conceptual redesign of nursing documentation system. In the field of health informatics, a need exists to broaden the scope of usability work. Usability is closely associated with evaluation and testing activities instead of design activities. Hence, the scope of usability is more restricted than it is in user-centred design and usability research fields. In order to overcome the current mismatch between IT systems and clinical work, it is important to understand that usability is extremely context-sensitive by nature. The study results indicated shortcomings in user-centred healthcare IT systems design and end-users' abilities to contribute to development work. User-centred design methods provide a variety of means to analyse, design, and evaluate information and communication systems for clinical purposes. However, the characteristics of the clinical context (e.g. privacy and data security issues, and the wide range of IT systems in use) need to be taken into account when applying the methods and performing research in real-life clinical surroundings.
    Translated title of the contributionUsability in healthcare : overcoming the mismatch between information systems and clinical work
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor's degree
    Awarding Institution
    • Aalto University
    • Nieminen, Marko, Supervising Professor
    • Tamminen, Sakari, Thesis Advisor, External person
    Print ISBNs978-952-60-4333-3
    Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-4334-0
    Publication statusPublished - 2011
    MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


    • usability
    • clinical information and communication technology systems
    • user-centred design
    • healthcare information system development
    • clinical work
    • physician
    • nurse

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