by jantzl on September 10, 2020

In last week’s post, I defined humane software and asked for feedback. As a reminder, the definition was: an ongoing endeavor that looks beyond the simple goals of the system at any other results and seeks to expand benefits and reduce harms.

One reader wrote in with some profound thoughts on what humane software is. He said that humane software is empathetic and takes into account the users’ needs as well as the people they serve. He included a great example of humane, empathetic software that takes into account users and those they serve: “Reducing scheduling complexity for the Physician makes it easier for patient follow up visits, which a number of patients don’t make.” I’m going to try to say that another way to make sure that I have it right - Giving doctors greater control over their schedule increases their availability to patients, which makes it easier to follow through on follow up visits.

Thank you, Jeff, for reading and for offering that great expansion/deepening of the definition and including an example!

Jeff’s comments struck me as a critical aspect of software in medicine. It seems to me that the clinician is the pivotal user of medical software. I don’t think this is a controversial stance but let me expand it and see how far it will go. I would argue that in healthcare, regardless of who is interfacing the software, the ease of use for the person giving direct patient care should be forefront. For example: * The back-office software, such as HR and accounting systems, ultimately asks for and presents information to frontline medical personnel. * Lab and imaging systems that process, analyze, document information about the patient - ultimately to be read, interpreted, and applied by the doctor or nurse who is with the patient.

Am I overlooking something? Why are these systems so often not streamlined for the people who provide patient care? If engineers built medical software with this as the first priority, what tradeoffs would we experience?