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In this blog I would like to address my experiences regarding including user research in the SAP Electronic Medical Record (EMR) project. It was very interesting for me, because of two reasons:

  • for once it was the first project I supported end-to-end – from the phase where the idea was born, to the development phase and the phase where I could actually see the app working in real life for a customer
  • second it is a mobile project and research for mobile products is still in its infancy, so I was excited about the challenges.

 What is SAP Electronic Medical Record?

Using SAP EMR, physicians can view relevant patient information on their iPad at the point of care, e.g. a patient’s bed during a ward round. Physicians can get an instant clinical overview as well as browse detailed findings, charts, images, progress notes, cumulative lab results, coded diagnoses, and procedure information. SAP Electronic Medical Record currently supports iPad and backend integration to Siemens i.s.h.med and includes interfaces to other backends such as PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System). Support for other tablet PCs is planned. 

screens 

How did SAP Electronic Medical Record become what it is right now?

Start of the project was April 1, 2011.
In May 2011 we (development, industry solution management, product owner, consulting and user researcher) visited the first end-users to validate our existing accumulated knowledge and take the end user input as the guiding source of information. We all visited hospitals to talk to physicians and observe them on their daily ward rounds, to capture the work context, tasks, needs, and pain points of the physicians.
The challenge we faced was methodological: In a usual research setting, I guide the end user through a more or less structured conversation at the user’s place of work, while the other research participants observe and take notes. In this case, however, we were not allowed to speak or ask questions while on the ward round. All questions had to be noted down and asked later during additional face-to-face interviews with the physicians.
Back at SAP we analyzed, investigated, and consolidated the data we gathered. The results were fed into the user story map, task flows, and design mockups, enabling the whole team to continually increase our domain knowledge and understanding of the end user.

Task flow and mock-ups

User Story Map

Once we all were confident we could design and develop a product that would meet the users’ needs, the scope was defined and we froze the user story map for SAP Electronic Medical Record version 1. Other findings are awaiting the development start in February 2012, as part of the version 2 initial backlog.

Based on this knowledge the UI Designer created an easy-to-use, intuitive UI that provides physicians with relevant, up-to-date patient information to make their work easier and enhance physician-patient interaction while ensuring confidentiality of the patient data.
After the development did a great job in implementing all the findings and UI Designs we again visited out end users. This time we brought a first version of the SAP Electronic Medical Record with us and conducted formative usability tests. We observed physicians using the App and collected their feedback. To ensure objective feedback, this research was conducted at different hospitals.
In an additional research step in October, we conducted observations and diary studies at one hospital where the first version of SAP Electronic Medical Record was implemented and tested in a live environment.

The challenge to design a highly usable SAP Electronic Medical Record app in such a short time frame could only be met by a dedicated and multidisciplinary team, where everybody was invited to bring in their expert knowledge:

  • User researchers to generate end user data
  • Solution managers to provide industry insights
  • A product owner together with visual and interaction designers to convert the findings into development proposals and UI designs
  • Developers experienced in SAP and Apple/mobile applications to built the solution
  • Consultants to help the pilot customer to implement it

The success of the project is captured in the final verdict of one of the physicians we followed on the ward round:

“Back in May, I wondered how you could possibly implement this unsystematic information appropriately and systematically. I am pleased and utterly amazed how well you managed to translate our input into such an excellent and usable product.” 

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