Fitts’s Law Application in Health Informatics

Ignoring Fitts’s law can exacerbate one of the unintended consequences of information technology in health care. This is juxtaposition errors.  This is when a user clicks the item next to the intended one. So, a physician can prescribing medicine to the wrong patient, because s/he clicked on the wrong patient. This is not theoretical. This was one of the errors elucidate by Ash, Berg and Coiera (2004) when they were discussing the errors induced by the highly interruptive environment in heath care.
You can listen to Jared Spool on the Usability Tools Podcast describing the use of Fitts’s law in computer interface design. In short, things you need users to click on should be big and close.
Surprisingly Fitts’s law is quite old. Paul Fitts, an American psychologist, published his paper in human motion in 1954. He developed his theory while trying to improve aviation safety. He may have realized that “juxtaposition errors” when made by pilots can be deadly! This is another development in aviation safety that health care should catch up with.

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