Code Blue: Opportunities for Interaction Design in Healthcare

Session Title

Code Blue: Opportunities for Interaction Design in Healthcare


Susan Dybbs

Session Type: Presentation

Imagine being required to fill out three forms before using your
computer. Or if every time you went to make a call, you had to look up
the area code in one phone book, and then look up the last seven
digits in another. While these scenarios may seem illogical, time
consuming or absurd, similar interactions are happening every moment
in one of our most important industries: healthcare.

In one emergency room, nurses must fill out three forms every time
they put in an IV. Elsewhere, in the surgical unit of a highly
regarded hospital, a surgeon searches through a myriad of antiquated
systems looking for a previous endoscopic image before an operation.

Healthcare providers’ tools and systems suffer from similar ailments
that software had a decade ago: they are often engineer driven and
lack input from the nurses, doctors, technicians and administrative
staff. Moreover, many system requirements originate in federal
regulations, not users’ needs. No, these are not the sexy consumer
products that glimmer in magazine and TV advertisements, but they do
have an undeniable effect on patient care, costs, and work-flow.

In this presentation I will draw on my work as a User Experience
Designer in both academic and for-profit hospitals and clinics to
provide a critical look at the tools used to manage and provide care.
I will also discuss how we, as designers, might influence and improve
healthcare providers’ experiences and, ultimately, patient care.


Susan Dybbs is User Experience Designer and Researcher with over eight years of experience creating people-centered products, services, and systems. Her passion for untangling complex problems has led her to work in areas such as healthcare, communications, banking, and information visualization.

Susan holds a Masters of Interaction Design from Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design, and has worked at companies such as Microsoft, Smart Design, Ricoh Innovations and Bank of America. Her clients include University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, El Camino Hospital and Blue Cross Blue Shield of California. She currently consults with various clients throughout the country.


  1. Posted September 17, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Nice, thoughtful and very timely presentation. I think it merits acceptance.

  2. Posted September 22, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Definitely an area that will be getting more attention in the next few years, and needs it. Interaction design in healthcare is clearly one of the “wickedest” problems we face as a discipline, with deep-rooted organizational and systems issues in addition to legacy installations of sub-optimal software / hardware interfaces. I’m intrigued and would love to attend this talk.

  3. Posted September 22, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Excellent and timely topic: Health Care reform at the same time I changed jobs (now working for Wolters Kluwer Health).

    I hope this talk will consider recent announcements regarding open trust frameworks for open government, as announced recently:

    Regardless, it’s an interesting topic.

  4. Posted October 1, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Susan, as someone who has worked on health care strategy I’m extremely interested in this presentation.

    How much of your talk will focus on the clinical setting and tools vs. systemic design aspects of health care?