ONC Design Challenge: 'Humanize' Electronic Health Records

Office of the National Coordinator seeks graphic designers who can redesign printed Blue Button patient records and make the documents more doctor friendly.

Michelle McNickle, Associate Editor of InformationWeek Healthcare

November 8, 2012

3 Min Read

5 Tools Connect Patients To Their Healthcare

5 Tools Connect Patients To Their Healthcare

5 Tools Connect Patients To Their Healthcare (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are asking graphic designers to help them put a new patient-friendly spin on printed Blue Button records. The Blue Button initiative enables an individual consumer or patient to get secure electronic access to their own health information in a format they can use.

The design challenge asks artists to "rethink how a medical record is presented visually, making it more readable, downloadable, and easy for patients to use," wrote Ryan Panchadsaram, a fellow at the ONC in a blog post. At the end of the six-week contest, a panel of curators will use one or more of the best entries to build and open source a final design. Electronic health record software companies can then use the template as a springboard to make their products more appealing, and ultimately result in more attractive printed Blue Button documents.

Blue Button is the best way to give patients access to their records because it includes their entire history, Panchadsaram told InformationWeek Healthcare. "It's like a receipt, but there is potential to make it look better," he said. "We believe if we redesign it, it will be a lot more helpful."

The idea for the redesign stemmed from the Presidential Innovation Fellowship for Blue Button, which pairs innovators in private and non-private sectors with those in government to collaborate on tools that will improve the lives of Americans, and, in this case, their healthcare.

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Graphic designers, Panchadsaram said, "can look at a lot of unstructured things and put structure to them; it was a natural fit. Traditionally, these challenges focus on developers, but designers do this every single day ... we thought it would be a good opportunity to tap into their talents and redesign this record."

The concept of human-centered design has become a popular theme in the design world, according to Panchadsaram, and he hopes designers will "put themselves in a patient's shoes and understand their entire situation, looking at it from start to finish."

On the provider end, Panchadsaram said physicians can expect to get the gist of a patient's health history more quickly with a new design. Currently a typical printed Blue Button record can run from 20 to 30 pages. "When you hand it to a doctor, they have to flip through all of them to get a good sense of it," he said. "With [a] new design, they can ... see the most important things within seconds by [the design] pulling key information to the top, like allergies, current meds."

Once curators choose the design, it will be built and open-sourced on the site GitHub, where the design community gathers to host code, "and anyone can see it" and build on top of it, said Panchadsaram. Panchadsaram and his team intend to model their effort after Bootstrap, which is an open-source framework that helps developers create Web interfaces.

InformationWeek Healthcare brought together eight top IT execs to discuss BYOD, Meaningful Use, accountable care, and other contentious issues. Also in the new, all-digital CIO Roundtable issue: Why use IT systems to help cut medical costs if physicians ignore the cost of the care they provide? (Free with registration.)

About the Author(s)

Michelle McNickle

Associate Editor of InformationWeek Healthcare

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