Are you pro-friction or anti-friction? (NYtimes: Is Tech Too Easy to Use?)

I love articles like this that challenge long-held assumptions. For decades, “everyone knows” that technology is too hard to use, and we have spent countless hours designing “frictionless” interactions. Look at books like “Don’t Make Me Think.” As a result, we’re so enamored of our devices, that we prefer to answer the ‘buzz’ of a notification or spend hours developing neck cramps looking down, instead of interacting with our fellow humans, our friends, our loved ones. The pendulum has swung too far. But does this hold true in healthcare? After all, the article states

“No one wants a doctor who prioritizes speed over safety.”

I think our answer must be more nuanced, and less of an epigram.

  • When EHR’s are hard to use, YES, frictionless is an important goal, so that doctors’ intent can easily translate to correct action (order the right prescription, the right test, assemble the important medical data for good decision-making)
  • When computer-generated alerts are important, frictionless MIGHT be a problem: in some parts of our EHR, doctors have learned that pressing “escape button” twice, will bypass the alert, without having to read and respond. In this case, frictionless is NOT good.
  • In those borderline cases, where SOME thought is necessary, but there appears to be a BETTER choice in the vast majority of cases (we use the 80/20 rule, so-called the Pareto Principle), we design the alert so that the EASIEST thing to do is also the right thing (something that Staples made famous with their EASY button)

CMIO’s take: Friction, frictionless, Easy Button. Do you have any stories about designing the future of healthcare IT?

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, UCHealth (Colorado); Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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