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:

  • Woman taking child's temperature with thermometer. Image created and copyright owned by authors.

    Considerations for an Access-Centered Design of the Fever Thermometer in Low-Resource Settings: A Literature Review


    Background: The lack of adequate information about fever in low-resource settings, its unreliable self-assessment, and poor diagnostic practices may result in delayed care and under-or-overdiagnosis of diseases such as malaria. The mismatches of existing fever thermometers in the context of use imply that the diagnostic tools and connected services need to be studied further to address the challenges of fever-related illnesses and their diagnostics. Objective: This study aims to inform a product-service system approach to design a reliable and accessible fever thermometer and connected services, as well as contribute to the identification of innovative opportunities to improve health care in low-resource settings. Methods: To determine what factors impede febrile people seeking health care to access adequate fever diagnostics, a literature search was conducted in Google Scholar and PubMed with relevant keywords. Next, these factors were combined with a patient journey model to design a new product-service system for fever diagnostics in low-resource settings. Results: In total, 37 articles were reviewed. The five As framework was used to categorize the identified barriers. The results indicate that there is a poor distribution of reliable fever diagnostic practices among remote communities. This paper speaks to the global public health and design communities. Three complementary considerations are discussed that support the idea of a more holistic approach to the design of fever diagnostics: (1) understanding of the fever diagnostics patient journey, (2) identifying user groups of the thermometers in a specific health care system, and (3) assessing different needs and interests of the different users. Conclusions: Access to basic, primary health care may be enhanced with better information and technology design made through the involvement of system users.

  • Electronic Health Literacy. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors.

    Perceived and Performed eHealth Literacy: Survey and Simulated Performance Test


    Background: Electronic health (eHealth) literacy of consumers is essential in order to improve information and communication technology (ICT) use for health purposes by ordinary citizens. However, performed eHealth literacy is seldom studied. Therefore, the present study assessed perceived and performed eHealth literacy using the recent conceptualization of health literacy skills. Objective: The aim of this paper was to examine the association between perceived and performed eHealth literacies. Methods: In total, 82 Israeli adults participated in the study, all 50 years and older, with a mean age of 67 (SD 11). Of the participants, 60% (49/82) were women and 72% (59/82) had a post-secondary education. The participants were first surveyed and then tested in a computer simulation of health-related Internet tasks. Performed, perceived (eHealth Literacy Scale, eHEALS), and evaluated eHealth literacy were assessed, and performed eHealth literacy was also recorded and re-evaluated later. Performance was scored for successful completion of tasks, and was also assessed by two researchers for motivation, confidence, and amount of help provided. Results: The skills of accessing, understanding, appraising, applying, and generating new information had decreasing successful completion rates. Generating new information was least correlated with other skills. Perceived and performed eHealth literacies were moderately correlated (r=.34, P=.01) while facets of performance (ie, digital literacy and eHealth literacy) were highly correlated (r=.82, P<.001). Participants low and high in performed eHealth literacy were significantly different: low performers were older and had used the Internet for less time, required more assistance, and were less confident in their conduct than high performers. Conclusions: The moderate association between perceived and performed eHealth literacy indicates that the latter should be assessed separately. In as much, the assessment of performed eHealth literacy in clinical settings should entail the structuring of tasks as well as shortening and automatizing the assessment.

  • Longleat Maze. Image Source: Author: Niki Odolphie from Frome, England. Copyright: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

    Designing eHealth Applications to Reduce Cognitive Effort for Persons With Severe Mental Illness: Page Complexity, Navigation Simplicity, and Comprehensibility


    Background: eHealth technologies offer great potential for improving the use and effectiveness of treatments for those with severe mental illness (SMI), including schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. This potential can be muted by poor design. There is limited research on designing eHealth technologies for those with SMI, others with cognitive impairments, and those who are not technology savvy. We previously tested a design model, the Flat Explicit Design Model (FEDM), to create eHealth interventions for individuals with SMI. Subsequently, we developed the design concept page complexity, defined via the design variables we created of distinct topic areas, distinct navigation areas, and number of columns used to organize contents and the variables of text reading level, text reading ease (a newly added variable to the FEDM), and the number of hyperlinks and number of words on a page. Objective: The objective of our study was to report the influence that the 19 variables of the FEDM have on the ability of individuals with SMI to use a website, ratings of a website’s ease of use, and performance on a novel usability task we created termed as content disclosure (a measure of the influence of a homepage’s design on the understanding user’s gain of a website). Finally, we assessed the performance of 3 groups or dimensions we developed that organize the 19 variables of the FEDM, termed as page complexity, navigational simplicity, and comprehensibility. Methods: We measured 4 website usability outcomes: ability to find information, time to find information, ease of use, and a user’s ability to accurately judge a website’s contents. A total of 38 persons with SMI (chart diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder) and 5 mental health websites were used to evaluate the importance of the new design concepts, as well as the other variables in the FEDM. Results: We found that 11 of the FEDM’s 19 variables were significantly associated with all 4 usability outcomes. Most other variables were significantly related to 2 or 3 of these usability outcomes. With the 5 tested websites, 7 of the 19 variables of the FEDM overlapped with other variables, resulting in 12 distinct variable groups. The 3 design dimensions had acceptable coefficient alphas. Both navigational simplicity and comprehensibility were significantly related to correctly identifying whether information was available on a website. Page complexity and navigational simplicity were significantly associated with the ability and time to find information and ease-of-use ratings. Conclusions: The 19 variables and 3 dimensions (page complexity, navigational simplicity, and comprehensibility) of the FEDM offer evidence-based design guidance intended to reduce the cognitive effort required to effectively use eHealth applications, particularly for persons with SMI, and potentially others, including those with cognitive impairments and limited skills or experience with technology. The new variables we examined (topic areas, navigational areas, columns) offer additional and very simple ways to improve simplicity.

  • Structured Rounding Tools. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors.

    Impact of Structured Rounding Tools on Time Allocation During Multidisciplinary Rounds: An Observational Study


    Background: Recent research has shown evidence of disproportionate time allocation for patient communication during multidisciplinary rounds (MDRs). Studies have shown that patients discussed later during rounds receive lesser time. Objective: The aim of our study was to investigate whether disproportionate time allocation effects persist with the use of structured rounding tools. Methods: Using audio recordings of rounds (N=82 patients), we compared time allocation and communication breakdowns between a problem-based Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan (SOAP) and a system-based Handoff Intervention Tool (HAND-IT) rounding tools. Results: We found no significant linear dependence of the order of patient presentation on the time spent or on communication breakdowns for both structured tools. However, for the problem-based tool, there was a significant linear relationship between the time spent on discussing a patient and the number of communication breakdowns (P<.05)––with an average of 1.04 additional breakdowns with every 120 seconds in discussion. Conclusions: The use of structured rounding tools potentially mitigates disproportionate time allocation and communication breakdowns during rounds, with the more structured HAND-IT, almost completely eliminating such effects. These results have potential implications for planning, prioritization, and training for time management during MDRs.

  • 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.

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This is the standard license-agreement.

    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.

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    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.

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