Obama, Healthcare & Aqua

At Monday's meeting at the White House -- which President Obama called a "historic" and "a watershed event in the long and elusive quest for healthcare reform" -- healthcare industry leaders pledged to trim healthcare costs by 1.5 percent annually over the next decade.

At a similar meeting last month at Infragistics, leaders also embarked on a historic, watershed event as we began work on our first healthcare “product” named Aqua, a CRM reference application for Microsoft. (Note that the President was planning on attending our meeting too, but an emergency with Bo the “first” dog caused him to cancel at the last minute. More on this emergency later.)

Aqua Overview
Aqua illustrates a variety of best practices and techniques using Windows Azure, MVVM, WPF, and ADO.NET Data Services so that you can employ these technologies in your own work. Over the next six weeks, stay tuned for videos, hands-on labs and blogs describing how we built this reference application. And as we move into the first days of summer, you can take a break from the sun and the surf to explore the completed application and the controls that comprise it.

We decided early on that Aqua would mimic a healthcare product. Healthcare is in the news everyday and the field continues to focus on the move from an all paper environment to reliance on electronic records, which will vastly improve patient safety and care outcomes as well as improving efficiency. Even though we were developing a reference application, we knew that in order to demonstrate best practices design and coding and optimize the UX, we had to approach this as if we were developing a product that would indeed be used by doctors and nurses and allow optimal treatment for patients.

UX Activities
We used a classic User Centered Design (UCD) process to ensure that Aqua was usable and appealing for doctors and nurses, allowing them to quickly assess the condition of a patient and prescribe care within the sometimes hectic environment of a modern big city Emergency Department. To qualify the scope of our reference application and design a quality UX, we first sought to understand our users and their requirements. We then started to produce simple designs, initially, just scribbles on a white board which then turned into concrete wireframes. We validated our designs early- on and then throughout development to continually identify improvement areas.

We had an advantage as a few members of the team were experienced with healthcare software development, so we already had a good understanding of the context of use for Aqua, that is, an understanding of the users, their tasks, their equipment, and their environment.

Overview and Early Design Video
Check out this video, Overview and Early Design for Aqua, which gives an overview of the project and the flavor of our early design activities from concept to wireframes. You'll also have a seat in some "top secret" design meetings. The video lasts about a half-hour.

Finally, in case you were still wondering about Bo, the first dog and the nature of the emergency..., it really was not too critical, Bo had a slight “accident” on the polished hardwood of the presidential bowling alley, and Barack was pressed into cleanup service. Just another tricky day.

He’s promised to take a look at our work though over the next several weeks, hope you do too!