Graphical Presentations of Clinical Data in a Learning Electronic Medical Record

Appl Clin Inform. 2020 Aug;11(4):680-691. doi: 10.1055/s-0040-1709707. Epub 2020 Oct 14.


Background: Complex electronic medical records (EMRs) presenting large amounts of data create risks of cognitive overload. We are designing a Learning EMR (LEMR) system that utilizes models of intensive care unit (ICU) physicians' data access patterns to identify and then highlight the most relevant data for each patient.

Objectives: We used insights from literature and feedback from potential users to inform the design of an EMR display capable of highlighting relevant information.

Methods: We used a review of relevant literature to guide the design of preliminary paper prototypes of the LEMR user interface. We observed five ICU physicians using their current EMR systems in preparation for morning rounds. Participants were interviewed and asked to explain their interactions and challenges with the EMR systems. Findings informed the revision of our prototypes. Finally, we conducted a focus group with five ICU physicians to elicit feedback on our designs and to generate ideas for our final prototypes using participatory design methods.

Results: Participating physicians expressed support for the LEMR system. Identified design requirements included the display of data essential for every patient together with diagnosis-specific data and new or significantly changed information. Respondents expressed preferences for fishbones to organize labs, mouseovers to access additional details, and unobtrusive alerts minimizing color-coding. To address the concern about possible physician overreliance on highlighting, participants suggested that non-highlighted data should remain accessible. Study findings led to revised prototypes, which will inform the development of a functional user interface.

Conclusion: In the feedback we received, physicians supported pursuing the concept of a LEMR system. By introducing novel ways to support physicians' cognitive abilities, such a system has the potential to enhance physician EMR use and lead to better patient outcomes. Future plans include laboratory studies of both the utility of the proposed designs on decision-making, and the possible impact of any automation bias.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Computer Graphics*
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Machine Learning*
  • Medical Informatics / methods*
  • User-Computer Interface