‘Human Factor’ Research Needed in Digital Health, Lecturer Says

By Ben Boulden

Krupinski's presentation was also offered as an online webinar in addition to an on-campus event.

Krupinski’s presentation was also offered as an online webinar in addition to the on-campus lecture.

A professor and vice chair of research in Radiology & Imaging Sciences at Emory University in Atlanta, Kurpinski was the guest lecturer Nov. 19 as part of the UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation’s Quarterly Digital Health Series. Her presentation was titled: “Why the Need for Research in Health Care Technology?”

The goal of the lecture series is to share research and encourage partnerships among organizations that wish to define and develop the field of digital health research.

Some people think research into digital health isn’t needed because they see the technology as simply assisting the practice of conventional, traditional medicine, Krupinski said.

“Engineers and medical physicists would stare at me when I would ask them how a new technology would improve patient outcomes or the performance of a health care provider,” she said. “Then later, they would come to me and ask why it doesn’t work with people.”

Sometimes technologists are so focused on a capability or function in the development of a digital health technology, making it do something new, that they don’t ask how it will be used in actual practice to benefit physicians, patients and others in a clinical setting, Krupinski said.

Curtis Lowery, right, asks Krupinski a question at the start of question-and-answer session after her presentation.

Curtis Lowery, M.D., right, asks Krupinski a question at the start of a question-and-answer session after her presentation.

“What are looked at less are the human factors, and looking at that is a process,” she said. “There is a science behind it. It’s a process of looking at and observing who your users are. That is what should guide your design and then be evaluated and go through the cycle again. It takes a lot of work and science.”

One study looked at the comfort level of radiologists when working long hours and reading medical images while seated. The study found that female radiologists experienced more discomfort than male colleagues and concluded that all the chairs in use by radiologists were designed for men, Kurpinski said.

Physicality, simplicity of design and ease of use are central human factors that need to be studied in regard to the technology in digital health. Of equal importance is how patients relate to it.

Kurpinski said, “If a system isn’t going to be easy to use for grandma, then it’s not going to be useful to patients.” Patients need to be comfortable physically and emotionally with the technology.

“From my perspective, it has nothing to do with the technology,” she said. “It’s about the end users of all sorts. We have to test these devices with a variety of users from experts and novices to those in-between. Do it in the real world in medical practice, not just the lab, and don’t just ask people. Show them and let them interact with the technology.”

This lecture series is funded in part by the UAMS Translational Research Institute and facilitated by the South Central Telehealth Resource Center. For more information, contact Joe Schaffner at jschaffner@uams.edu.