A book chapter on ‘Design for improved workflow’

Mustafa, Blaine, Sunyoung, and I wrote a chapter on Design for Improved Workflow as part of Design for Health: Applications of Human Factors, published by Elsevier.


Workflow is a commonly used term in human factors and informatics literature. We embraced a broad definition and used it as a concept to examine various work phenomena. This chapter aims to discuss how design can improve workflow in health settings and eventually make care delivery patient-centered and safer. In general, design studies can improve workflow in two different ways: (1) the overall workflow and (2) interventions that would improve workflow. We highlighted two design approaches: user-centered design and participatory. These are two closely related approaches that engage (to varying degrees) targeted users along a continuum of participation to improve usability. For each of the three informatics subfields (clinical, public health, and consumer health), we provide relevant examples from studies, where users were engaged in the design process. We have identified whether the notion of workflow was formally addressed and gave examples of how workflow methodology might complement user-centered and participatory design efforts in clinical, public health, and consumer health informatics research. Although user-centered design includes a variety of methods, we introduced contextual inquiry and participatory design. These designs demonstrated two key distinctive features of user-centered design: the importance of understanding the holistic context of users’ social, technical, and cultural environments; and engaging users as codesigners. We deepen our discussion through a case that focuses on supporting patient engagement for improved intra- and cross-institutional workflow in an emergency department. Design studies that involve multidisciplinary perspectives are necessary to improve workflow that contributes to safer, higher quality, and more accessible care delivery.