Platform: Healthy interactive systems: Resilient, Usable and appropriate systems in Healthcare

Renewed Platform Grant (EP/G004560)


Principal Investigators: Ann Blandford (University College London) and Harold Thimbleby (Swansea University)

Co-investigators (at UCL): Rachel Benedyk, Nadia Berthouze, Duncan Brumby, Anna Cox, John Dowell (University College London).

UCLIC had a Platform Grant (2009-2014), joint with the FIT Lab, Swansea. The focus of this grant was on "Healthy Interactive Systems in Healthcare", and it was concerned with designing effective user interactions with a variety of systems in healthcare, from the mundane (e.g. infusion pumps) through information systems to novel technologies (e.g. for pain management).

When faced by complex problems, people turn to tools that improve their performance. Through studying the use of tools in highly demanding circumstances we gain valuable insights into how to design effective systems. The design of interactive computer systems is a complex and multi-faceted challenge that is amplified when such systems are used in the varied, sensitive and often pressurised environment of healthcare.

Health is a domain of immense significance to society, and of great strategic importance. The use of interactive technologies in clinical practice, preventative education and the treatment of chronic conditions has become pervasive. However, there is compelling evidence that current healthcare systems are under-performing: often unreliable, difficult to use, and failing to address the needs of clinicians and patients adequately. Surprisingly little attention has been paid to people's interactions with those technologies and designing effective interactions.

Interactive systems in health raise many problems of interest to interaction researchers. Clinical appliances such as syringe pumps have apparently simple interfaces that nonetheless have contributed to medical errors, while the proliferation of online material leads to many patients attempting to self-diagnose or understand a chronic condition. The design of effective interactions with healthcare systems requires a multidisciplinary approach; conversely, we can test and extend HCI approaches by working in this demanding setting. For example, the design of medical appliances raises challenges of developing formal modelling techniques that can be used to analyse complex, often messy, systems. Similarly studies of patient's internet searches, and the rich interactions they have with and around information, challenge our understanding of interactive information seeking.

This Platform grant brought together two research groups with complementary skills and approaches, and a track record of effective collaboration. It provided base-line support for developing a research agenda in "healthy interactive systems", by which we mean systems that are dependable, usable and appropriate to their contexts of use, and that empower their users, augmenting people's understanding and capabilities. It built on outcomes from an earlier Platform grant on "The design and use of complex information spaces". The focus on complexity resulted in some important developments over the period of the grant. These include a shift in focus from compensating for users' limitations (e.g. designing out error, or helping users reformulate queries in information seeking) to augmenting their capabilities (e.g. enabling resilient behaviours, supporting sense-making) and improving their experiences in a health context.

The Platform Grant was instrumental in the development of an EPSRC Programme Grant, CHI+MED (2009-2015), on the design of safer interactive medical devices, taking into account interaction design, human error and situated use. That programme grant is being followed up by an NIHR project grant, ECLIPSE.

The Platform Grant also supported Nadia Berthouze and others in developing an EPSRC grant on pain rehabilitation., and Anna Cox on studies of wellness and work–life balance.

Work is also developing on how people make sense of health information, and on other novel technologies to support health management.

Page last modified on 17 nov 14 10:03 by Ann E Blandford