Design and usability study of an iconic user interface to ease information retrieval of medical guidelines

From Clinfowiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Accessing information easily is a challenge of the technologic age. In the context of medicine, timely information retrieval can make a huge difference in performance. New software is being created and tested to solve this problem. The article, “Design and usability study of an iconic user interface to ease information retrieval of medical guidelines” from the Journal of the American Median Informatics Association [1] addresses issues of usability in this context.


The interface Doc’CISMeF (DC) has been created as a semantic search engine utilized to recover data in CISMeF-BP. This program uses visualization of concepts in medicine (VCM) as an iconic language that make information gathering simpler. This article presents the study with the aim to explain how a VCM in DC interface was created for greater usability. The methods used to accomplish this were focus groups organized with the intention of gathering suggestions for improving the interface. An ergonomic evaluation approach was applied to the VCM interface; 20 physicians were invited to analyze the VCM interface with the non-VCM choice. Each medical practitioner answered different clinical scenarios in each interface in order to create comprehensive suggestions for icons. How quickly information was ascertained was recorded and compared. A System Usability Scale (SUS) was applied to determine which interface succeeded more efficiently.


The results of this study revealed that VCM mapping of semantic icons greatly increased the efficiency of data retrieval. Focus group recommendations were applied to the iconography. However, even though this system offered an improvement, the time it took to recover the information is still considerable, and needs to be improved to increased efficiency optimality in the medical field. It takes an average of 4-6 hours to learn the language but not all of the evaluators had the time to completely learn the language which might explain why it took more time to retrieve the information.[1] The article offers a concise background for the issue to give context for the need for improvement. As technology grows vaster, creative solutions must be created to increase interactivity. The use of ergonomic designs reveals that the ‘human’ elements are not being forgotten in design, and an eye for enjoyment of usability is being applied. This is encouraging, and the only aspect of the article that brings tangible emotionality to this discussion.


The authors did a quality job of describing the step-by-step approach of the study. For example, the preliminary step, VCM was mapped to the iconography use in DC to allow its efficient integration with the interface. How the focus groups’ insights were applied makes it clear that technology expands through the creative input and will of people. For those with the desire to know the ins and outs of the software, a full description of CISMeF-BP was given: “This catalog gathers thousands of resources described by Dublin Core metadata and manually indexed using Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)”. The authors cited other works that expand on the premises of their data, acknowledging the academic community that supports their work. A graphic figure including the semantic icons was presented, giving clarity to the abstract concepts.

The visualization of concepts in medicine is an old tool used in a new context. The use of signs and symbols has been going on for a long time and those in the medical profession chose these symbols. The use of internal organs as signifier requires extensive knowledge of the subject matter, and to the uninitiated it appears very funny. The figure used to illustrate mapping was a good tool for explaining how these symbols correspond to complex concepts. The authors explained how the focus groups came to their signifiers.

In conclusion, the article “Design and usability study of an iconic user interface to ease information retrieval of medical guidelines” is a good preparation for the challenges of information technology intermixing with the demands of the medical industry.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Griffon, N., Kerdelhue, G. , Hamek, S., Hassler, S., Boog, C., Lamy, JB., … Darmoni, SJ. Design and usability study of an iconic user interfact to ease information retrieval of medical guidelines. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association 21.e2 (2014): e270-e277