A usability evaluation of a SNOMED CT based compositional interface terminology for intensive care

Int J Med Inform. 2012 May;81(5):351-62. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2011.09.010. Epub 2011 Oct 24.


Objective: To evaluate the usability of a large compositional interface terminology based on SNOMED CT and the terminology application for registration of the reasons for intensive care admission in a Patient Data Management System.

Design: Observational study with user-based usability evaluations before and 3 months after the system was implemented and routinely used.

Measurements: Usability was defined by five aspects: effectiveness, efficiency, learnability, overall user satisfaction, and experienced usability problems. Qualitative (the Think-Aloud user testing method) and quantitative (the System Usability Scale questionnaire and Time-on-Task analyses) methods were used to examine these usability aspects.

Results: The results of the evaluation study revealed that the usability of the interface terminology fell short (SUS scores before and after implementation of 47.2 out of 100 and 37.5 respectively out of 100). The qualitative measurements revealed a high number (n=35) of distinct usability problems, leading to ineffective and inefficient registration of reasons for admission. The effectiveness and efficiency of the system did not change over time. About 14% (n=5) of the revealed usability problems were related to the terminology content based on SNOMED CT, while the remaining 86% (n=30) was related to the terminology application. The problems related to the terminology content were more severe than the problems related to the terminology application.

Conclusions: This study provides a detailed insight into how clinicians interact with a controlled compositional terminology through a terminology application. The extensiveness, complexity of the hierarchy, and the language usage of an interface terminology are defining for its usability. Carefully crafted domain-specific subsets and a well-designed terminology application are needed to facilitate the use of a complex compositional interface terminology based on SNOMED CT.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Disease Management
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / standards*
  • Medical Informatics Applications*
  • Patient Admission / standards*
  • Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine*
  • User-Computer Interface*