Original Research

Advancing Order Set Design

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According to Heath and Heath, too many options can result in lack of action.4 For example, Heath and Heath discuss a food store that offered 6 free samples of different jams on one day and 24 jams the following day. The customers who sampled 6 different types of jam were 10 times more likely to buy jam. The authors concluded that the more options available, the more difficulty a potential buyer has in deciding on a course of action.4

In clinical situations where a HCP is using an order set, the number of options can mean the difference between use vs avoidance if the choices are overwhelming. HCPs process layers of detail every day when creating differential diagnoses and treatment plans. While that level of detail is necessary clinically, that same level of detail included in orders sets can create challenges for HCPs.

Figure 2 advances the order set in Figure 1 by providing a simpler and cleaner design, so HCPs can more easily review and process the information. This order set design minimizes the number of options available to help users make the right decision, focusing on value for the appropriate setting and audience. In other words, order sets should not be a “one size fits all” approach.

Order sets should be tailored to the appropriate clinical setting (eg, inpatient acute care, outpatient clinic setting, etc) and HCP (eg, hospitalist, tobacco cessation specialist, etc). We are comparing NRT order sets designed for HCPs who do not routinely prescribe oral tobacco cessation products in the inpatient setting. When possible, autogenerated bundle orders should also be used according to evidence-based recommendations (such as nicotine patch tapers) for ease of use and further simplification of order sets.

Finally, usability testing known as “evaluating a product or service by testing it with representative users” helps further refine an order set.5Usability testing should be applied during all phases of order set development with end user(s) as it helps identify problems with order set design prior to implementation. By applying usability testing, the order set becomes more meaningful and valued by the user.

Human Factors Engineering

HFE is “the study of all the factors that make it easier to do the work in the right way.”6 HFE seeks to identify, align, and apply processes for people and the world within which they live and work to promote safe and efficient practices, especially in relation to the technology and physical design features in their work environment.6

The average American adult makes about 35,000 decisions per day.7 Thus, there is potential for error at any moment. Design that does not take HFE into account can be dangerous. For example, when tube feed and IV line connectors look similar and are compatible, patients may inadvertently receive food administered directly into their bloodstream.8

HFE can and should be applied to order sets. Everything from the look, feel, and verbiage of an order set affects potential outcomes. For example, consider the impact even seemingly minor modifications can have on outcomes simply by guiding users in a different way: Figure 1 provides NRT options based on cigarette use per day, whereas Figure 2 conveys pack use per day in relation to the equivalent number of cigarettes used daily. These differences may seem small; however, it helps guide users to the right choice when considering that health care providers have been historically trained on social history gathering that emphasizes packs per day and pack-years.


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