The US Government recently invited designers and developers to redesign the patient health record. The goal of the Health Design Challenge was to improve the presentation and usability of the record currently used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other groups. Over 230 entries were submitted. The winning entries used dynamic content, informative graphics and, of course, plain language.
The VA health record definitely needs a makeover. It’s a plain text file that provides a laundry list of the patient’s medical data. But it doesn’t explain why the patient needs to take certain medications or what their lab results mean. And it doesn’t provide additional information that would help the patient, caregiver or doctor manage the patient’s health.
How did the winning entries use plain language to make the health record more effective? They eliminated jargon, used simple English and wrote short sentences. The first place winner for best overall design, Nightingale by gravitytank, made the content understandable and kept it simple. As they stated on their entry: “Each test and result is explained in plain English.” All of the winning entries provided clear instructions that a patient or caregiver can easily understand and follow.
The new patient health record will combine elements of several of the entries. This gives the VA a chance to improve their “plain language” grade. (The Department received an F on the first Plain Writing Act report card released by the Center for Plain Language.) Will the new health record designs with their focus on plain language help them the VA get a passing grade? We certainly hope so.
You can view the winning entries at Health Design Challenge.
By Ellen Buttolph