Strengthening Interprofessional Requirements Engineering Through Action Sheets: A Pilot Study

JMIR Hum Factors. 2016 Oct 18;3(2):e25. doi: 10.2196/humanfactors.5364.


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.

Keywords: interprofessional cooperation; personal electronic health record; requirements engineering; scrum; software development.