General24 Mar 2006 08:04 am

UPDATE 31 December 2006: This blog is now ‘frozen’ as a historical archive. Due to moving it to a new hosting provider, some of the ‘bells and whistles’ may no longer work. Watch out for more blogs in 2007. 

The provision of conference blogs, such as this one, is still at early stage. So, we need your help to evaluate this blog, and the overall concept, so that we can determine how best to develop them in the future – and whether the model we are trying to develop works or not.

Rather than a lengthy structured questionnaire as we have used in the past year elsewhere, we invite any and all general and specific comments on the blog – whether you simply read it, or whether you posted a comment, or signed on as a blogger.

Some sample areas you might want to comment on (but do not feel constrained by these, or that you have to answer all of them) are:

  • was the blog easy to use? – if not, why not?
  • did the structure, format etc. work? – how could it be improved?
  • were there logistical problems (eg wifi access at Harrogate, or not time to log on) that stopped you contributing ?
  • does a conference blog provide any benefit to the community, or is it a waste of our time to provide it?

Feel free to add your thoughts as a comment to this post – or email Peter Murray on or Rod Ward on

Finally – thanks to John Bryant and Steve Kay in particular, and the HC Executive and Scientific Programme Committee, for their generous support that facilitated Rod and I in providing this blog.

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Conference&Exhibition&General23 Mar 2006 09:58 am

Perhaps a session on planning the future of HC events was not best held at 9:30 on a Wednesday morning, after the major social event of the previous event. For the few who attended the session, it provided an opportunity to input their views on the future of HC, as part of an ongoing process being undertaken by the HC Executive, and by BCS HIF and the Scientific Programme Committee in respect of the conference programme.

If you missed the session, do not despair – you can have your say. If you have any thoughts at all on the future of HC – what it should look like, what it should contain, where it should be held, when in the year it should be held, what target audience it should seek to attract, or any other aspect – then the HC Executive would like to hear your views.

You can leave a comment on this post – or send an email to Peter Murray on peter@open-nurse info and I will forward it. You will also, in due course, be able to input views through the conference website.

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General23 Mar 2006 09:51 am

We asked previously for your thoughts on what you hoped to get out of HC2006. Now it is over, we invite your comments – whether you were there, or whether you were reading this blog from afar – on what you got out of HC2006, or not, as the case may be.

So, feel free to add a comment on the highs and lows for you – what was good, what was not good – what you got out of it, or what you felt was missing.

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Conference&General23 Mar 2006 09:46 am

HC2006 is over – in the blink of an eye for those of us who were there. The Call for submissions for HC2007 is now available.

HC2007 will be held on 19-21 March 2007 at the usual venue. The theme will be ‘Challenging boundaries’. Watch the HC conference website – – for full details of the deadline for submission and further information.

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medinfo200723 Mar 2006 09:38 am

The Call for Submissions for medinfo2007 has been launched. The deadline for submissions is 4 DECEMBER 2006 and, as Joan Edgcumbe has been stressing to everyone she has talked to at HC2006 – THERE WILL BE NO EXTENSION. We want to see a high level of UK submissions – so note the date.

medinfo2007 ( is the 12th World Congress on Health (Medical) Informatics. It will be held in Brisbane, Australia on 20-24 August 2007. Full information is on the website. Paper copies of the Call can be obtained from BCS HIF, or from one of the UK ‘ambassadors’ – Peter Murray, Jean Roberts and Graham Wright.

We are also pleased to announce that Peter Murray and Rod Ward will be leading the development and delivery of the medinfo2007 blog and podcasts.

Get medinfo2007 in your diaries and start planning and saving.

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Conference&Wednesday23 Mar 2006 08:19 am

One of the final conference streams on Wednesday afternoon was a masterclass titled ‘Human factors engineering: the path to usable software design’, presented by Prof. Peter Elkin, of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA. Peter set his presentation, and the resulting discussion, within the premise that software usability is vitally intertwined with good interface design, supported by usability testing with real end users, and that most health IT failures result from lack of respect for, or attention to, human-computer interaction, rather than necessarily technical flaws.

Peter covered some of the basic theory of human-computer interaction, beginnning with the three elements – humans, activity, context – within Bailey’s Human Performance Model. He discussed some of the reasons that software and other IT products are often hard to use, including their being designed with an emphasis on the machine or system, rather than the end-users, the target audience often being a moving target, lack of full design specification, and development teams not being well integrated. Too often, he said, engineers design machines to talk to machines, but they are not the end-users who must wrestle with the product. He stressed the need for user-centred design, including an early focus on the needs of users and the teasks they will perform, and empiric measurement of usage, often through usability testing laboratories (such as he runs).

He moved on to discuss some of the principles of human factors analysis, including contextual inquiry (understanding the end-user needs), competitive usability evaluations, and low-fidelity prototypes for ealry testing. He suggested that ‘the user is always right’ – although this may not always be the case – and that in terms of interface design, ‘less is more’, as each widget in an interface (eg screen) places an additional burden on the user. He suggested that usability of a system often depends on ‘minor’ interface details, and that without proper usability testing, these may not be uncovered, and so the reasons for resistance to use, for example, may not be found and corrected.

Peter discussed 5 usability attributes:

  • learnability;
  • efficiency;
  • memorability;
  • error prevention; and
  • satisfaction.

He devoted the last part of the masterclass to description of the theory and some examples of usability testing. He defined usability testing as replicable studies of products and processes in a controlled environment, and described 4 types:

  • exploratory;
  • assessment testing – often expanding on exploratory test findings;
  • validation testing – often occurring late in the development cycle; and
  • comparative testing, often of two products, processes or designs.

He described the limitations of usability testing, including it always being an artificial situation, difficulties in determining whether the test users are typical of the target population, and that testing may not always be the best technique. He recommended adherence to the relevant ISO stantards, including ISO 13407, the human-centred design development cycle.

This was a very useful and informative session that it would have benefitted many of a more technical or policy orientation to attend.

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Conference&medinfo2007&Wednesday22 Mar 2006 10:02 pm

The HC conference and the exhibition seem much quieter and less stimulating than previous years. Delegate and exhibitor numbers are down and there is little of the “excitement” of previous years (perhaps I’ve just been too many times).
This may be because everyone is so busy with implementation, and may also reflect a recognition that what has been bought is not (easily or soon) going to be deliveing the benefits many had dreamed of.

The non participation of Connecting for Health has been very obvious, and seems to have been a missed opportunity to share lessons from one area of the country to another. Almost all the speakers seemed to be very careful to “toe the party line” and any criticisms which were made were couched very carefully and not made explicit.
There also doesn’t seem to have been the innovations which have been a feature of this event in the past. I feel that next years conference (19th to 21st march 2007) will need speakers and participants who are willing to challenge the status Quo and bring the spark back into HC.

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Conference&Keynotes&Wednesday22 Mar 2006 09:59 pm

The final plenary session was not well attended as many people had left the conference before it tok place.

Prof Sir Muir Gray was presented with the BCS HC achievement award as the “first knight of health informatics”. He received his knighthood last year for knowledge management in the NHS.

He then gave a lecture in which he drew parrallels between the health benefits of clean and filtered water and the health benefits of clean and filtered information. He divided the lecture around several “tools”, those for changing society, community building , knowledge logistics and those for clinicans and patients. He managed to cover the Kaleidoscopic workforce and the national knwledge service as the only way forward for the NHS. I’m sure that many of the items will be dealt within more depth on his new blog Soundshealthy

Muir’s lecture was followed by the final keynote from Prof Nick Bosanquet (Professor of Health Policy, Imperial College, London), who talked about a “new informatics for the post-boom NHS”. He examined NHS funding and how new initiatives which have already been announced will mean that growth in NHS budgets will lead to reductions in growth between now and 2010, and the subsequent mechanisms for the control of expenditure (based on calaculations available on the Reform website in his paper The NHS in 2010). He argued that we are moving to an era of local pluralism rather than central control and likened Connecting for Health to a “cast iron framework in a dynamic sysem”, suggesting that it will need to provide data for cost control and meet the “Jeavons challenge” of increasing independance and autonomy in a system with multiple healthcare providers.

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Conference&Keynotes&Wednesday22 Mar 2006 02:24 pm

Dr Martin Baggaley (C4H clinical lead for London & Consultant Psychiatist) gave an interesting presentation setting out some specific issues for mental health trusts in London. He stressed the low base, in terms of electronic records systems, that mental health trusts are faced with, and the vital need for interoperability – not just with acute trust systems, but also with other agencies such as social services and the criminal justice system.

He pointed out some of the implications of Our Health, Our Care, our Say and its implicit moves from secondary to primary care and the balance between “stalinist” central control and “arguing local fifedoms”, and the problems which emerge from this. He described the “tactical” move by many London Mental Health Trusts to use RiO until fuller tools are available from the National Programme – and suggested that the spine would be, ultimately, the best route to address the ineroperability issues he highlighted. During the question and answer session he agreed with a questioner that for many London MH trusts which already have effective sysems the best solution may be to sit tight at present. I asked another question about mental health patients having “particularly sensitive” information which they may wish to go in the “sealed envelope” before it is uploaded to the spine. He suggest that many “career” MH patients are very open about their condition & may not wish to restrict access to their records, but that for many people with transient mental health problems the development of the sealed envelope is vital before information is uploaded.

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Conference&Wednesday22 Mar 2006 01:08 pm

To Blog or Not to Blog – not a question put to Peter & I but the title of a paper by Adrienne Speake from Northumberland Tyne & Wear SHA, who described the establishment of a blog “Talking Knowledge Management” by the knowledge management specialist library of the National Library for Health. She described the rationale for the blogs creation, based on perceived problems with email and commercial discussion lists. The uptake and use of the blog had been minimal & Ady had conducted a survey to explore why this might be. I was surprised that the technology was seeen as being a difficult barrier when the target audience are those working in knowledge management. The final part of her presentation and some of the question and answer session lookied at blog use in general and some other emerging technologies such as wikis.

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