Yammer anyone?), the health sector is increasingly taking its cue from the world of Web apps. The Seattle product design firm Artefact, whose future camera concept caught the attention of our readers in April, recently designed a prototype patient care app for the Seattle Children's Patient Information System.Just as popular consumer Web apps eventually find their way into the enterprise (
I visited the Artefact office in Seattle last month and was shown the prototype at work on an iPad. The app, as yet unnamed, is designed to help doctors, administrators and patients manage patient care in a hospital. The colorful and eminently usable design is - I can only hope - a pointer to the hospital and doctor apps of the near future.
What most impressed me about the app was that it didn't resemble the clunky, boxy, database-looking apps I'd seen in the past at hospitals and doctor clinics. This prototype was intuitive and had a clean, functional design. What's more, it appeared to revolve more around the patient than the hospital system.
A picture can tell a thousand words. The image directly below is of the prototype hospital app from Artefact. Below that is a traditional hospital app.
A healthy, attractive app!
An unhealthy hospital app that should be euthanized.
The Artefact app has a dashboard for each patient, showing who the care group is and a chart of that patient's vital signs. Interactive infographics help caregivers understand the patient's health data.
The app employs modern Web design features. For example, there is a rating for each patient, fed by real-time data. Colored up and down arrows display whether the patient's health is trending up or down. It's a relatively simple feature, similar to ratings used in hundreds of 'Web 2.0' sites over the past five to six years. But simplicity is exactly what's needed in hospital apps, which have traditionally been bloated and overly complex. With this prototype app, a doctor or nurse can check the overall status of a patient in one glance. He or she can of course also drill down to the actual data points and check the patient's history.
Taking a cue from the world of social gaming, there is an end goal for the app. The target for each patient is discharge - that is, going home. To help the doctor track the patient's well being, the app has an "estimated discharge" task based system.
The Artefact app is designed to be a decision making tool, while also allowing the sharing of information among hospital staff (such as reports).
The above screenshots show an iPad app, but like any good modern Web app it will cross different devices. According to Artefact, while doctors will probably use tablets at the patient's bedside, unit coordinators may use their desktop PCs to see the status of patients and make plans for them.
Anything that simplifies hospital care and removes the need for complex medical apps is a great advance forward in health technology. Let's hope this is indeed the future of hospital apps.