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Thoughts, comments, news, and reflections about healthcare IT from Microsoft's worldwide health senior director Bill Crounse, MD, on how information technology can improve healthcare delivery and services around the world.

How to provide a more intuitive user interface for clinicians and patients

How to provide a more intuitive user interface for clinicians and patients

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imageClinicians have told me they want a simplified, more intuitive user interface to clinical systems and all of the other applications they use on a daily basis. I also hear the same thing from health insurance companies and healthcare organizations that are developing  tools for patient use in the hospital, or perhaps patient monitoring in the home. They say patients need solutions that are “pushbutton” simple. That’s why I believe a new kind of Windows 8.1 application called Windows Apportal may be a way to deliver exactly what both clinicians and patients have been asking for.

What is a Windows Apportal? Here’s how Microsoft describes it.

A Windows Apportal is a Windows 8.1 app that can integrate your entire Line of Business (LOB) stack into a single, modern, touch-based experience. The concept behind Apportals is simple – introduce the same nested folder structure common in a desktop OS to the modern mobile OS. The result is a UI experience that allows the user to drill from the Start screen (composed of Live Tiles) to another mini-Start screen (composed of Grid Tiles). And best of all, because an Apportal is built out of the OS, everything that runs on Windows runs in a Windows Apportal, including Desktop Windows 7 Applications; Modern Windows 8 Apps; and Web Applications.

Let me try to put that in my own language. Think of Windows Apportal as a kind of app organizer that, via Active Directory for a federated group of users, can deliver a role-based start screen to the most commonly used tools and applications that you need to do your work. For clinicians that might mean a set of tools on the start screen to facilitate communication and referrals, along with direct access points to their most commonly used clinical systems and reference materials.  Because this works through Active Directory, administrators could create a unique start screen via Windows Apportal for nurses compared to that used by doctors. In fact, each clinical specialty could have their own, unique Apportal to their favorite and most useful applications. For patients in the hospital or at home who might be part of a federated network, Windows Apportal could be used to create a unique set of useful applications for a specific diagnosis or chronic disease status.

I’m not a developer, so my screen shots are purely fictional. In one screen shot, I’ve created what a Windows Apportal might look like for clinicians. Doctors would see a simplified screen offering up the tools and resources they most commonly use to do their work, communicate, and collaborate with colleagues.

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In my next screen shot, I’m showing how the start screen for a patient tracking his or her health at home might appear. The patient could be offered a curated set of applications to facilitate communication with providers, monitor health status, and provide patient education materials. In a hospital setting, a similar approach could be used to develop a screen for patients that would serve as their gateway to the nurse call system, dietary orders, satisfaction surveys, patient education, entertainment, and communication with friends and family.

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Because the Live Tiles are “live”, administrators could send alerts or draw attention to applications on the start screen that needed the clinician’s or patient’s immediate attention.

It will be interesting to see how health organizations, partners and developers use the new Windows Apportal concept to create UI-based virtual integration of disparate applications, even those that might be classified as existing legacy technologies.

Microsoft partners attending this week’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C., may wish to register for the Windows Apportal session where you’ll be able to learn more and see a Windows Apportal demo. You’ll also find an informative article on Windows Apportal here.

Bill Crounse, MD                Senior Director, Worldwide Health             Microsoft

  • Wow. Amazing opportunities!  I've been using a personal blog to piecemeal all of this information for my own tracking purposes, this is great!

  • Sounds as a cool way of building a modern start screen adapted to MY needs. A function and especially a feel that is difficult to get in the former versions of WIN - this must be spread to all developers and healthcare customers.

    It may not be a revolution but will have an impact on how clinical workers perceive their administative health workplace.Cool...

  • Given the exceedingly poor uptake of Windows 8, I'm not sure why Developers will take the effort to develop for the platform.

    I for one have given up trying to chase the dog, preferring to hone my skills on the Windows 7 platform and develop apps there.

  • Disillusioned,

    Thanks for your comment. Windows 7 and 8 play very nicely together in the enterprise, so no worries there. We need great solutions across all contemporary operating systems. Windows 8 offers a great touch experience for clinical apps in a mobile first, cloud first world and I'm very pleased with the progress we are seeing. I think you'll be surprised as some of these newer solutions come to market and even more thrilled as the next version of Windows comes to market and brings even more opportunities for developers such as yourself to develop across device types, from phones to tablets, notebooks, laptops, desktops, and other form factors. Again, thanks for your comment.

    Bill Crounse, MD

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