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Designing consumer health IT to enhance usability among different racial and ethnic groups within the United States

Abstract

Racial and ethnic healthcare disparities remain after differences in income, access, and insurance status have been considered, partly because of the healthcare delivery system’s failure to respond to cultural differences. The Institute of Medicine has called for the development and deployment of culturally appropriate healthcare services to mitigate these disparities. This complex problem of determining how to address the cultural components of racial and ethnic healthcare disparities is an example of what Russell Ackoff terms “messes.” Given consumer health information technology (IT)’s increasing role in patients’ self-care and self-management, one potential solution lies in designing consumer health IT that is culturally-informed. Although both the healthcare informatics community and the engineering design community have begun to seriously consider the role of culture in design to enhance usability, much work remains. Unfortunately, creating culturally-informed consumer health IT can seem daunting, limiting designers’ efforts. We propose the Culturally-Informed Design Framework as a guide for designers of consumer health IT. Designers may use this framework to conceptualize four dimensions of a consumer health IT – technology platform, functionality, content, user interface—in which design choices should be informed by a deep understanding of the users’ culture.

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Acknowledgements

Rupa S. Valdez was supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (Fellowship ID# 2005024457), the University of Wisconsin-Madison University Fellowship, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars Dissertation Grant, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Health Services Dissertation grant (1 R36 HS018809-01). This work was motivated by a panel presentation by the authors at the 2008 American Medical Informatics Association Annual Symposium. We wish to thank all participants attending the panel discussion for their encouragement and feedback.

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Valdez, R.S., Gibbons, M.C., Siegel, E.R. et al. Designing consumer health IT to enhance usability among different racial and ethnic groups within the United States. Health Technol. 2, 225–233 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12553-012-0031-6

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Keywords

  • Culture
  • Ethnicity
  • Disparities
  • Consumer health informatics
  • Health information technology
  • Engineering design
  • Self-care
  • Self-management
  • Cultural ergonomics