Informatics Research Seminar: Use of Qualitative Methods to Support HIT Design

February 23 @ 4:00 – 5:00 pm


Speaker: Melanie C. Wright, PhD
Presented from Duke University

Broadcast Link: Seminar


Human-centered design is an approach in which systems are designed around the needs and capabilities of the users, as opposed to being driven by the available technology. Although human-centered design places an important emphasis on early data collection and analysis of the work domain, human-system goals, or functional requirements, this important phase is frequently skipped or shortchanged in system or product design and development. It is uncertain whether this is because these techniques are not well known, are difficult to apply, or their benefits are under-appreciated. Without a clear understanding of information needs and appropriate applications for information technology, researchers and designers can spend significant effort on applications that, for complex socio-technical systems, will have no practical application or comprehensibility. An important tool for designers is an understanding of a variety of qualitative methods, including their strengths and limitations, for directing future design work. In this presentation, Dr. Wright will differentiate qualitative and quantitative design methods, describe key principles important to good qualitative research, cover issues of “bias” or “viewpoint” in qualitative research, discuss the construct of “truth” or “validity” in qualitative research, and present examples of use of different qualitative research methods in HIT design.


Melanie C. Wright, PhD is the Director of Research at the Duke Human Simulation and Patient Safety Center. She has a BS in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Tech and an MS in Psychology and PhD in Industrial Engineering from North Carolina State University. She has eighteen years experience in engineering and research in the areas of human performance, usability analysis, and human-machine system design. Dr. Wright has been researching issues associated with the reduction of error in health care since 2003. Areas of interest include the effects of technology on team coordination and the integration and use of multi-modal displays to improve human performance. Dr. Wright is currently active in research related to: (1) development of techniques for assessing skills in teamwork, (2) comparison of interactive methods of training health care team coordination skills, (3) development of interactive virtual environments for health care team training, (4) evaluation of perioperative information presentation to support design of more intelligent and integrated information displays, and (5) process improvement for the reduction of error in high risk environments such as the laboratory, pharmacy, and emergency department.