Emergency department patient-tracking system evaluation

Priyadarshini R. Pennathur*, Dapeng Cao, Ann M. Bisantz, Li Lin, Rollin J. Fairbanks, Robert L. Wears, Shawna J. Perry, Theresa K. Guarrera, Jennifer L. Brown, Zheng Sui

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Information technology is rapidly being developed and implemented for health care environments, often as a replacement for paper based or other manual tools. One example of this transition is the replacement of large dry-erase boards, used in emergency departments (ED) for tracking patient locations and clinical care, with computerized patient-tracking systems. The design of such systems has important implications for aspects of ED work, including changes to workload and situation awareness of ED staff. In this study, we used a newly developed electronic patient-tracking system simulator which combined a realistic model of ED and patient events with a configurable patient-tracking system display. Situation awareness regarding patient data, workload, responses to system failures, and performance on secondary tasks was measured for two groups of experienced ED staff (nurses, and clerks) across two display conditions and two patient volume conditions. We found that nurses had higher situation awareness than clerks, and that increased patient volume increased some aspects of workload. Additionally there were some indications that color coding information made it easier for participants to remember information in the event of system failures and that the choice of display size may depend on users' primary tasks. As demonstrated by these important findings, the simulator was considered to be viable in adequately representing emergency department processes in a controlled lab setting for helping assess situation awareness and workload. Relevance to industry: Healthcare technology design industry and healthcare systems planning to implement new information technologies would significantly benefit from the methodology and findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-369
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Industrial Ergonomics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Emergency departments
  • Health information systems
  • Situation awareness


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