Health, communications fields come together to increase technology use

Syeda Hasan

The School of Nursing is bringing creative minds from the health and communications industries together to develop new ideas for implementing health care using modern technology.

The Center for Health Promotion & Prevention Research hosted a lecture Friday to promote new systems of communication in hospitals and updated ways of providing health care to patients such as integrated computer programs and improved electronic interfaces.

Dr. Misha Vaughan, architect for the computer technology company Oracle and a UT alumni, said developers should aim to provide an engaging user experiences through their electronic interfaces.

“The game is changing,” Vaughan said. “The bar is raised, and expectations of users of technology today because you’re competing with user experiences such as Amazon, Facebook and the iPad. If it’s not as easy to use, seamless and interactive, your user is one click away from finding another option.”

Vaughan said the most important component in designing useful programs is conducting research in the health care field to recognize the types of interruptions professionals and patients experience when using the technology and develop solutions for them.

“It’s really important you consider the real world context and what the challenges someone such as a new mom might face when trying to use the Internet or a mobile device to access health information,” she said. “We also followed health professionals in foreign countries to see what their daily work life was like, and it was only through observation that we learned their specific needs such as how important things like texting can be in countries with a high noise level.”

Vaughan said programs with poorly designed interfaces cause companies to miss out on potential profits as users look for programs that better meet their needs.

“You don’t have to be a billion dollar company to do this,” she said. “You can actually do a lot of this research very cheaply, and focus on engagement and the flow of the information which are most important.”

Nursing professor Lorraine Walker said Vaughan’s research provides an effective structure for finding the most efficient way for health care professionals to communicate important information using new technology.

“This research focuses on next-generation user interface technology,” Walker said. “There is a lot of discussion going on about health promotion through technology such as the Internet, but knowing how to do it well is the next challenge.”

Associate nursing professor Linda Yoder said it is important to keep health communication technologies current so young health professionals are not alienated by older technologies that may be unfamiliar to them.

“When we look at the average nurse on a very busy unit, it’s important that you see this fluid action of nursing work,” Yoder said. “If we do a better job of information interface within that environment, it would provide enrichment especially for the new generation of workers.”

Printed on 07/18/2011 as: Lecture blends health, technology