JMIR Publications

JMIR Human Factors

Making health care interventions and technologies usable, safe, and effective


Journal Description

JMIR Human Factors (JHF) is a new spin-off journal of JMIR, a leading open access eHealth journal (Impact Factor 2015: 4.532). 
JMIR Human Factors is a multidisciplinary journal with contributions from medical researchers, engineers, and social scientists.
JMIR Human Factors focuses on understanding how the behaviour and thinking of humans can influence and shape the design of health care interventions and technologies, and how the design can be evaluated and improved to make health care interventions and technologies usable, safe, and effective. JHF aspires to lead health care towards a culture of testing and safety by promoting and publishing reports rigorously evaluating the usability and human factors aspects in health care, as well as encouraging the development and debate on new methods in this emerging field. 
All articles are professionally copyedited and typeset, ready for indexing in PubMed/PubMed Central. Possible contributions include usability studies and heuristic evaluations, studies concerning ergonomics and error prevention, design studies for medical devices and healthcare systems/workflows, enhancing teamwork through Human Factors based teamwork training, measuring non-technical skills in staff like leadership, communication, situational awareness and teamwork, and healthcare policies and procedures to reduce errors and increase safety. Reviews, viewpoint papers and tutorials are as welcome as original research.

Editorial Board members are currently being recruited, please contact us if you are interested ( at


Recent Articles:

  • Hearing impairment. Image Source: Author: Clker-Free-Vector-Images. Copyright: CC0 Public Domain.

    Exploration of Deaf People’s Health Information Sources and Techniques for Information Delivery in Cape Town: A Qualitative Study for the Design and...


    Background: Many cultural and linguistic Deaf people in South Africa face disparity when accessing health information because of social and language barriers. The number of certified South African Sign Language interpreters (SASLIs) is also insufficient to meet the demand of the Deaf population in the country. Our research team, in collaboration with the Deaf communities in Cape Town, devised a mobile health app called SignSupport to bridge the communication gaps in health care contexts. We consequently plan to extend our work with a Health Knowledge Transfer System (HKTS) to provide Deaf people with accessible, understandable, and accurate health information. We conducted an explorative study to prepare the groundwork for the design and development of the system. Objectives: To investigate the current modes of health information distributed to Deaf people in Cape Town, identify the health information sources Deaf people prefer and their reasons, and define effective techniques for delivering understandable information to generate the groundwork for the mobile health app development with and for Deaf people. Methods: A qualitative methodology using semistructured interviews with sensitizing tools was used in a community-based codesign setting. A total of 23 Deaf people and 10 health professionals participated in this study. Inductive and deductive coding was used for the analysis. Results: Deaf people currently have access to 4 modes of health information distribution through: Deaf and other relevant organizations, hearing health professionals, personal interactions, and the mass media. Their preferred and accessible sources are those delivering information in signed language and with communication techniques that match Deaf people’s communication needs. Accessible and accurate health information can be delivered to Deaf people by 3 effective techniques: using signed language including its dialects, through health drama with its combined techniques, and accompanying the information with pictures in combination with simple text descriptions. Conclusions: We can apply the knowledge gained from this exploration to build the groundwork of the mobile health information system. We see an opportunity to design an HKTS to assist the information delivery during the patient-health professional interactions in primary health care settings. Deaf people want to understand the information relevant to their diagnosed disease and its self-management. The 3 identified effective techniques will be applied to deliver health information through the mobile health app.

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    Integrating Patient-Generated Health Data Into Clinical Care Settings or Clinical Decision-Making: Lessons Learned From Project HealthDesign


    Background: Patient-generated health data (PGHD) are health-related data created or recorded by patients to inform their self-care and understanding about their own health. PGHD is different from other patient-reported outcome data because the collection of data is patient-driven, not practice- or research-driven. Technical applications for assisting patients to collect PGHD supports self-management activities such as healthy eating and exercise and can be important for preventing and managing disease. Technological innovations (eg, activity trackers) are making it more common for people to collect PGHD, but little is known about how PGHD might be used in outpatient clinics. Objective: The objective of our study was to examine the experiences of health care professionals who use PGHD in outpatient clinics. Methods: We conducted an evaluation of Project HealthDesign Round 2 to synthesize findings from 5 studies funded to test tools designed to help patients collect PGHD and share these data with members of their health care team. We conducted semistructured interviews with 13 Project HealthDesign study team members and 12 health care professionals that participated in these studies. We used an immersion-crystallization approach to analyze data. Our findings provide important information related to health care professionals’ attitudes toward and experiences with using PGHD in a clinical setting. Results: Health care professionals identified 3 main benefits of PGHD accessibility in clinical settings: (1) deeper insight into a patient’s condition; (2) more accurate patient information, particularly when of clinical relevance; and (3) insight into a patient’s health between clinic visits, enabling revision of care plans for improved health goal achievement, while avoiding unnecessary clinic visits. Study participants also identified 3 areas of consideration when implementing collection and use of PGHD data in clinics: (1) developing practice workflows and protocols related to PGHD collection and use; (2) data storage, accessibility at the point of care, and privacy concerns; and (3) ease of using PGHD data. Conclusions: PGHD provides value to both patients and health care professionals. However, more research is needed to understand the benefit of using PGHD in clinical care and to identify the strategies and clinic workflow needs for optimizing these tools.

  • Strengthening Interprofessional Requirements Engineering Through Action Sheets. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors by Aline Kunz et al.

    Strengthening Interprofessional Requirements Engineering Through Action Sheets: A Pilot Study


    Background: The importance of information and communication technology for healthcare is steadily growing. Newly developed tools are addressing different user groups: physicians, other health care professionals, social workers, patients, and family members. Since often many different actors with different expertise and perspectives are involved in the development process it can be a challenge to integrate the user-reported requirements of those heterogeneous user groups. Nevertheless, the understanding and consideration of user requirements is the prerequisite of building a feasible technical solution. In the course of the presented project it proved to be difficult to gain clear action steps and priorities for the development process out of the primary requirements compilation. Even if a regular exchange between involved teams took place there was a lack of a common language. Objective: The objective of this paper is to show how the already existing requirements catalog was subdivided into specific, prioritized, and coherent working packages and the cooperation of multiple interprofessional teams within one development project was reorganized at the same time. In the case presented, the manner of cooperation was reorganized and a new instrument called an Action Sheet was implemented. This paper introduces the newly developed methodology which was meant to smooth the development of a user-centered software product and to restructure interprofessional cooperation. Methods: There were 10 focus groups in which views of patients with colorectal cancer, physicians, and other health care professionals were collected in order to create a requirements catalog for developing a personal electronic health record. Data were audio- and videotaped, transcribed verbatim, and thematically analyzed. Afterwards, the requirements catalog was reorganized in the form of Action Sheets which supported the interprofessional cooperation referring to the development process of a personal electronic health record for the Rhine-Neckar region. Results: In order to improve the interprofessional cooperation the idea arose to align the requirements arising from the implementation project with the method of software development applied by the technical development team. This was realized by restructuring the original requirements set in a standardized way and under continuous adjustment between both teams. As a result not only the way of displaying the user demands but also of interprofessional cooperation was steered in a new direction. Conclusions: User demands must be taken into account from the very beginning of the development process, but it is not always obvious how to bring them together with IT knowhow and knowledge of the contextual factors of the health care system. Action Sheets seem to be an effective tool for making the software development process more tangible and convertible for all connected disciplines. Furthermore, the working method turned out to support interprofessional ideas exchange.

  • Medication Complexity. Image created and copyright owned by authors.

    Medication Management: The Macrocognitive Workflow of Older Adults With Heart Failure


    Background: Older adults with chronic disease struggle to manage complex medication regimens. Health information technology has the potential to improve medication management, but only if it is based on a thorough understanding of the complexity of medication management workflow as it occurs in natural settings. Prior research reveals that patient work related to medication management is complex, cognitive, and collaborative. Macrocognitive processes are theorized as how people individually and collaboratively think in complex, adaptive, and messy nonlaboratory settings supported by artifacts. Objective: The objective of this research was to describe and analyze the work of medication management by older adults with heart failure, using a macrocognitive workflow framework. Methods: We interviewed and observed 61 older patients along with 30 informal caregivers about self-care practices including medication management. Descriptive qualitative content analysis methods were used to develop categories, subcategories, and themes about macrocognitive processes used in medication management workflow. Results: We identified 5 high-level macrocognitive processes affecting medication management—sensemaking, planning, coordination, monitoring, and decision making—and 15 subprocesses. Data revealed workflow as occurring in a highly collaborative, fragile system of interacting people, artifacts, time, and space. Process breakdowns were common and patients had little support for macrocognitive workflow from current tools. Conclusions: Macrocognitive processes affected medication management performance. Describing and analyzing this performance produced recommendations for technology supporting collaboration and sensemaking, decision making and problem detection, and planning and implementation.

  • Cardiac monitoring. Image Source: Author: 18043 images. License: CC0 Public Domain.

    Role of Large Clinical Datasets From Physiologic Monitors in Improving the Safety of Clinical Alarm Systems and Methodological Considerations: A Case From...


    Background: Large datasets of the audit log of modern physiologic monitoring devices have rarely been used for predictive modeling, capturing unsafe practices, or guiding initiatives on alarm systems safety. Objective: This paper (1) describes a large clinical dataset using the audit log of the physiologic monitors, (2) discusses benefits and challenges of using the audit log in identifying the most important alarm signals and improving the safety of clinical alarm systems, and (3) provides suggestions for presenting alarm data and improving the audit log of the physiologic monitors. Methods: At a 20-bed transplant cardiac intensive care unit, alarm data recorded via the audit log of bedside monitors were retrieved from the server of the central station monitor. Results: Benefits of the audit log are many. They include easily retrievable data at no cost, complete alarm records, easy capture of inconsistent and unsafe practices, and easy identification of bedside monitors missed from a unit change of alarm settings adjustments. Challenges in analyzing the audit log are related to the time-consuming processes of data cleaning and analysis, and limited storage and retrieval capabilities of the monitors. Conclusions: The audit log is a function of current capabilities of the physiologic monitoring systems, monitor’s configuration, and alarm management practices by clinicians. Despite current challenges in data retrieval and analysis, large digitalized clinical datasets hold great promise in performance, safety, and quality improvement. Vendors, clinicians, researchers, and professional organizations should work closely to identify the most useful format and type of clinical data to expand medical devices’ log capacity.

  • REACH logo. Image sourced and copyright held by authors.

    Development and Usability of REACH: A Tailored Theory-Based Text Messaging Intervention for Disadvantaged Adults With Type 2 Diabetes


    Background: Among adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), adherence to recommended self-care activities is suboptimal, especially among racial and ethnic minorities with low income. Self-care nonadherence is associated with having worse glycemic control and diabetes complications. Text messaging interventions are improving the self-care of adults with T2DM, but few have been tested with disadvantaged populations. Objective: To develop Rapid Education/Encouragement And Communications for Health (REACH), a tailored, text messaging intervention to support the self-care adherence of disadvantaged patients with T2DM, based on the Information-Motivation-Behavioral skills model. We then tested REACH’s usability to make improvements before evaluating its effects. Methods: We developed REACH’s content and functionality using an empirical and theory-based approach, findings from a previously pilot-tested intervention, and the expertise of our interdisciplinary research team. We recruited 36 adults with T2DM from Federally Qualified Health Centers to participate in 1 of 3 rounds of usability testing. For 2 weeks, participants received daily text messages assessing and promoting self-care, including tailored messages addressing users’ unique barriers to adherence, and weekly text messages with adherence feedback. We analyzed quantitative and qualitative user feedback and system-collected data to improve REACH. Results: Participants were, on average, 52.4 (SD 9.5) years old, 56% (20/36) female, 63% (22/35) were a racial or ethnic minority, and 67% (22/33) had an income less than US $35,000. About half were taking insulin, and average hemoglobin A1c level was 8.2% (SD 2.2%). We identified issues (eg, user concerns with message phrasing, technical restrictions with responding to assessment messages) and made improvements between testing rounds. Overall, participants favorably rated the ease of understanding (mean 9.6, SD 0.7) and helpfulness (mean 9.3, SD 1.4) of self-care promoting text messages on a scale of 1-10, responded to 96% of assessment text messages, and rated the helpfulness of feedback text messages 8.5 (SD 2.7) on a scale of 1-10. User feedback led to refining our study enrollment process so that users understood the flexibility in message timing and that computers, not people, send the messages. Furthermore, research assistants’ feedback on the enrollment process helped improve participants’ engagement with study procedures. Conclusions: Testing technology-delivered interventions with disadvantaged adults revealed preferences and concerns unique to this population. Through iterative testing and multiple data sources, we identified and responded to users’ intervention preferences, technical issues, and shortcomings in our research procedures.

  • Image sourced and copyright held by authors. SOurce 
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    User Experiences of the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal’s Evidence Summaries and Blog Posts: Usability Study


    Background: Evidence summaries and blogs can support evidence-informed healthy aging, by presenting high-quality health research evidence in plain language for a nonprofessional (citizen) audience. Objective: Our objective was to explore citizens’ perceptions about the usability of evidence summaries and blog posts on the Web-based McMaster Optimal Aging Portal. Methods: Twenty-two citizens (aged 50 years and older) and informal caregivers participated in a qualitative study using a think-aloud method and semistructured interviews. Eleven interviews were conducted in person, 7 over the telephone, and 4 by Skype. Results: We identified themes that fell under 4 user-experience categories: (1) desirability: personal relevance, (2) understandability: language comprehension, grasping the message, dealing with uncertainty, (3) usability: volume of information, use of numbers, and (4) usefulness: intention to use, facility for sharing. Conclusions: Participants recognized that high-quality evidence on aging was valuable. Their intended use of the information was influenced by how much it applied to their own health circumstances or those of a loved one. Some specific formatting features that were preferred included consistent layout, content organized by subheadings, catchy titles, numerical information summarized in a table, and inclusion of a glossary.

  • Doctor with tablet. License: Public Domain. Source:

    Designing for Risk Assessment Systems for Patient Triage in Primary Health Care: A Literature Review


    Background: This literature review covers original journal papers published between 2011 and 2015. These papers review the current status of research on the application of human factors and ergonomics in risk assessment systems’ design to cope with the complexity, singularity, and danger in patient triage in primary health care. Objective: This paper presents a systematic literature review that aims to identify, analyze, and interpret the application of available evidence from human factors and ergonomics to the design of tools, devices, and work processes to support risk assessment in the context of health care. Methods: Electronic search was performed on 7 bibliographic databases of health sciences, engineering, and computer sciences disciplines. The quality and suitability of primary studies were evaluated, and selected papers were classified according to 4 classes of outcomes. Results: A total of 1845 papers were retrieved by the initial search, culminating in 16 selected for data extraction after the application of inclusion and exclusion criteria and quality and suitability evaluation. Conclusions: Results point out that the study of the implications of the lack of understanding about real work performance in designing for risk assessment in health care is very specific, little explored, and mostly focused on the development of tools.

  • Understandability of Patient Journey Models. Copyright held by UOIT & article authors.

    An Evaluation of Understandability of Patient Journey Models in Mental Health


    Background: There is a significant trend toward implementing health information technology to reduce administrative costs and improve patient care. Unfortunately, little awareness exists of the challenges of integrating information systems with existing clinical practice. The systematic integration of clinical processes with information system and health information technology can benefit the patients, staff, and the delivery of care. Objectives: This paper presents a comparison of the degree of understandability of patient journey models. In particular, the authors demonstrate the value of a relatively new patient journey modeling technique called the Patient Journey Modeling Architecture (PaJMa) when compared with traditional manufacturing based process modeling tools. The paper also presents results from a small pilot case study that compared the usability of 5 modeling approaches in a mental health care environment. Method: Five business process modeling techniques were used to represent a selected patient journey. A mix of both qualitative and quantitative methods was used to evaluate these models. Techniques included a focus group and survey to measure usability of the various models. Results: The preliminary evaluation of the usability of the 5 modeling techniques has shown increased staff understanding of the representation of their processes and activities when presented with the models. Improved individual role identification throughout the models was also observed. The extended version of the PaJMa methodology provided the most clarity of information flows for clinicians. Conclusions: The extended version of PaJMa provided a significant improvement in the ease of interpretation for clinicians and increased the engagement with the modeling process. The use of color and its effectiveness in distinguishing the representation of roles was a key feature of the framework not present in other modeling approaches. Future research should focus on extending the pilot case study to a more diversified group of clinicians and health care support workers.

  • Image Source: The authors, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

    Do Gender-Specific and High-Resolution Three Dimensional Body Charts Facilitate the Communication of Pain for Women? A Quantitative and Qualitative Study


    Background: Chronic pain is more prevalent among women; however, the majority of standardized pain drawings are often collected using male-like androgynous body representations. Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess whether gender-specific and high-resolution three-dimensional (3D) body charts facilitate the communication of pain for women. Methods: Using mixed-methods and a cross-over design, female patients with chronic pain were asked to provide detailed drawings of their current pain on masculine and feminine two-dimensional (2D) body schemas (N=41, Part I) or on female 2D and 3D high-resolution body schemas (N=41, Part II) on a computer tablet. The consistency of the drawings between body charts were assessed by intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) and Bland-Altman plots. Semistructured interviews and a preference questionnaire were then used to obtain qualitative and quantitative responses of the drawing experience. Results: The consistency between body charts were high (Part I: ICC=0.980, Part II: ICC=0.994). The preference ratio for the masculine to feminine body schemas were 6:35 and 18:23 for the 2D to 3D female body charts. Patients reported that the 3D body chart enabled a more accurate expression of their pain due to the detailed contours of the musculature and bone structure, however, patients also reported the 3D body chart was too human and believed that skin-like appearance limited ‘deep pain’ expressions. Conclusions: Providing gender-specific body charts may facilitate the communication of pain and the level of detail (2D vs 3D body charts) should be used according to patients’ needs.

  • Electronic Health Records. Image sourced and copyright owned by the authors Anne Press et al.

    Usability Testing of a National Substance Use Screening Tool Embedded in Electronic Health Records


    Background: Screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) is currently being implemented into health systems nationally via paper and electronic methods. Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the integration of an electronic SBIRT tool into an existing paper-based SBIRT clinical workflow in a patient-centered medical home. Methods: Usability testing was conducted in an academic ambulatory clinic. Two rounds of usability testing were done with medical office assistants (MOAs) using a paper and electronic version of the SBIRT tool, with two and four participants, respectively. Qualitative and quantitative data was analyzed to determine the impact of both tools on clinical workflow. A second round of usability testing was done with the revised electronic version and compared with the first version. Results: Personal workflow barriers cited in the first round of testing were that the electronic health record (EHR) tool was disruptive to patient’s visits. In Round 2 of testing, MOAs reported favoring the electronic version due to improved layout and the inclusion of an alert system embedded in the EHR. For example, using the system usability scale (SUS), MOAs reported a grade “1” for the statement, “I would like to use this system frequently” during the first round of testing but a “5” during the second round of analysis. Conclusions: The importance of testing usability of various mediums of tools used in health care screening is highlighted by the findings of this study. In the first round of testing, the electronic tool was reported as less user friendly, being difficult to navigate, and time consuming. Many issues faced in the first generation of the tool were improved in the second generation after usability was evaluated. This study demonstrates how usability testing of an electronic SBRIT tool can help to identify challenges that can impact clinical workflow. However, a limitation of this study was the small sample size of MOAs that participated. The results may have been biased to Northwell Health workers’ perceptions of the SBIRT tool and their specific clinical workflow.

  • NIH. Image created, sourced and copyright owned by authors Pamela A Williams at al.

    Usability Testing and Adaptation of the Pediatric Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Clinical Decision Support Tool


    Background: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is 1 of the leading causes of death, years of life lost, and disability-adjusted years of life lost worldwide. CVD prevention for children and teens is needed, as CVD risk factors and behaviors beginning in youth contribute to CVD development. In 2012, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute released their "Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents" for clinicians, describing CVD risk factors they should address with patients at primary care preventative visits. However, uptake of new guidelines is slow. Clinical decision support (CDS) tools can improve guideline uptake. In this paper, we describe our process of testing and adapting a CDS tool to help clinicians evaluate patient risk, recommend behaviors to prevent development of risk, and complete complex calculations to determine appropriate interventions as recommended by the guidelines, using a user-centered design approach. Objective: The objective of the study was to assess the usability of a pediatric CVD risk factor tool by clinicians. Methods: The tool was tested using one-on-one in-person testing and a "think aloud" approach with 5 clinicians and by using the tool in clinical practice along with formal usability metrics with 14 pediatricians. Thematic analysis of the data from the in-person testing and clinical practice testing identified suggestions for change in 3 major areas: user experience, content refinement, and technical deployment. Descriptive statistical techniques were employed to summarize users' overall experience with the tool. Results: Data from testers showed that general reactions toward the CDS tool were positive. Clinical practice testers suggested revisions to make the application more user-friendly, especially for clinicians using the application on the iPhone, and called for refining recommendations to be more succinct and better tailored to the patient. Tester feedback was incorporated into the design when feasible, including streamlining data entry during clinical visits, reducing the volume of results displayed, and highlighting critical results. Conclusions: This study found support for the usability of our pediatric CVD risk factor tool. Insights shared about this tool may be applicable for designing other mHealth applications and CDS tools. The usability of decision support tools in clinical practice depends critically on receiving (ie, through an accessible device) and adapting the tool to meet the needs of clinicians in the practice setting.

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