A Common User Interface to Clinical Systems: Making it real

On October 21st, 2005, I wrote an entry on this Blog about the need for a more common and intuitive user interface to clinical information systems.  Here's part of that entry:


Jim Lynch, R.N. is quoted by Health Data Management's on-line news service on remarks he recently made during a presentation at the 77th Convention and Exhibit of the American Health Information Management Association . In his address, "Electronic Medical Records: Expect the Unexpected", Mr. Lynch recounts the plaudits and pitfalls encountered at Oklahoma City-based Integris Health during the implementation of their EMR. He says, “A major part of the problem was that the electronic record was not easy to use--the interface is not as simple as Microsoft Word, and many physicians had absolutely no computer skills.”

Indeed! Why is it that EMR interfaces have to be so challenging for clinicians? The typical community physician in many American cities admits patients to more than one hospital. In my own community, it's not unusual for docs to call on three or four different hospitals. One hospital might use Meditech ; another IDX ; another Cerner ; and yet another something else. Even if any one of these systems had the "perfect" user interface, how can a clinician become proficient on all of them? How much training would that take!

Bill Crounse, MD


I am now extremely pleased to tell you about something that I believe may be the tipping point in moving us toward a common user interface to clinical systems, perhaps worldwide. For the past couple of years, Microsoft has been working with administrators, clinicians and other experts in the United Kingdom to design a common user interface for clinical and administrative systems at the National Health Service. With the consent of the NHS and its Connecting for Health initiative, the design guidelines and tools are now being made available to developers around the world with the launch of the CUI Website.

CUI Website 

As noted on the website, design guidance has been produced through a rigorous user-centred design process that incorporates primary and secondary research, usability testing, consultation with software providers and integrated hazard assessments. Patient Safety Assessments (PSAs) are continually performed to ensure the Design Guidance meets safety concerns.

The guidance is targeted at both existing clinical applications and those that are being designed and architected right now. The second part of this release is the implementation of much of that guidance in the form of control libraries for both WinForms 2.0 and ASP.NET. The website contains explanation and samples for each of the Web controls with the Codeplex project hosting a download of both the Winforms and the ASP.NET Control library.

Sample CUI Screen

Example of Common User Interface Design

If you are a developer of applications used in healthcare, an IT professional, or just someone who is passionate about clinical information systems, I urge you to become familiar with this excellent work, and help us make it even better by joining the dialogue here on CodePlex (http://www.codeplex.com/mscui). Take a look at the CUI Website and be sure to watch the introductory video.

My thanks to our Microsoft UK team and our colleagues at the National Health Service for providing leadership in addressing a much needed solution that will improve patient safety while providing a much easier to use, more consistent interface to clinical systems.

Bill Crounse, MD     Worldwide Health Director        Microsoft Corporation