Heuristic evaluation and usability testing of a computerized patient-reported outcomes survey for headache sufferers

Telemed J E Health. Jan-Feb 2011;17(1):40-5. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2010.0114. Epub 2011 Jan 7.


Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate usability of a prototype tablet PC-administered computerized adaptive test (CAT) of headache impact and patient feedback report, referred to as HEADACHE-CAT.

Materials and methods: Heuristic evaluation specialists (n = 2) formed a consensus opinion on the application's strengths and areas for improvement based on general usability principles and human factors research. Usability testing involved structured interviews with headache sufferers (n = 9) to assess how they interacted with and navigated through the application, and to gather input on the survey and report interface, content, visual design, navigation, instructions, and user preferences.

Results: Specialists identified the need for improved instructions and text formatting, increased font size, page setup that avoids scrolling, and simplified presentation of feedback reports. Participants found the tool useful, and indicated a willingness to complete it again and recommend it to their healthcare provider. However, some had difficulty using the onscreen keyboard and autoadvance option; understanding the difference between generic and headache-specific questions; and interpreting score reports.

Conclusions: Heuristic evaluation and user testing can help identify usability problems in the early stages of application development, and improve the construct validity of electronic assessments such as the HEADACHE-CAT. An improved computerized HEADACHE-CAT measure can offer headache sufferers an efficient tool to increase patient self-awareness, monitor headaches over time, aid patient-provider communications, and improve quality of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Data Collection
  • Decision Making, Computer-Assisted*
  • Feedback
  • Female
  • Headache*
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Health Surveys / instrumentation
  • Health Surveys / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New England
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • User-Computer Interface