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Connexus: Mobile clinical data display

8:05 PM Posted by David Do, MD No comments

I helped design the Connexus App at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania as a member of the Design Team. Connexus is a data visualization app for healthcare providers to access patient data, now deployed to thousands of nurses and doctors at the hospital. The goal was to aggregate data from multiple clinical information systems to give providers a comprehensive overview of a patient when on call.


S. Airan-Javia, D. Leri, E. Gitelman, me

Problems With Existing Apps

The existing clinical app was difficult to use because it was designed around the data rather than the user--the nested tree structure required too many taps to get to the data.

In order to see an MRI, the user needed to 1) type a PIN, 2) search the patient by name, 3) tap “Radiology”, 4) tap “MRI”, and 5) finally see the result. It was reasonably useful for finding a single result for a single patient, but it failed to facilitate the tasks that providers would need to use it for:
  • Admitting – when a provider does not yet know about a patient and needs to look up all labs, imaging, vitals, and notes. Doing this on the prior app required the user to click through many categories of data, making it less feasible.
  • Covering – when a provider is taking care of fifty patients, he/she cannot afford to click through each patient. He/she needs a live feed of all the lab results as they are reported.
  • On call - when a provider is called to the bedside for an unfamiliar patient, he/she needs a 30-second comprehensive overview of high-yield data, including vital sign trends, and microbiology data.
  • Rounding – when a team is discussing the medical plan for a patient, providers need many quick data lookups to assist in decision-making.

The Design Process

We focused our design on the user stories listed above. On a white board, we drew one view at a time based on our stories. This approach helped us build a minimum viable product (MVP). This app was built on a few design principles for usability.
  • Design for mobile first -- designing for a phone screen forced us to simplify views
  • Minimize page-flipping -- to avoid a major pitfall with EMRs
  • Display data succinctly -- e.g. for medications, use SubQ, BID, and other accepted abbreviations (see figure below)
  • Search fields rather than categories -- Google employs this idea in many of its products including Gmail
  • Convention over customization – medical software companies often sell customizable views in place of user-centered design but we wanted to build a product suitable for 80% of use cases.

The Final Product

Using these design principles and a minimalistic approach, we piloted and launched the app, which is now widely used in the hospital. This was the first app at the hospital that was designed and built with the collaboration of clinicians and IT specialists, a formula that will be important for designing secure but usable apps in the future.


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