This morning we had the great opportunity to observe and discuss workflows and work practice in the operating area in the Elisabeth hospital in Essen. It was amazing how much time from (really busy) personnel we got and this provided us with many new insights.
The complexity of scheduling patients, operations, equipment and consumables in a very dynamic environment poses a great challenges and it was interesting to see how well it works with current technologies. However looking at the systems used and considering upcoming pervasive computing technologies a great potential for easing tasks and processes is apparent. Keeping tracking of things and people as well as well as documentation of actions are central areas that could benefit.
From a user interface perspective it is very clear that paper and phone communication play an important role, even in such high-tech environment. We should look a bit more into the Anoto Pen technology – perhaps this could be an enabler for some ideas we discussed. Several ideas that relate to implicit interaction and context awareness (already partly discussed in the context of a project in Munich ) re-surfaced. Similarly questions related to data access and search tools seem to play an interesting role. With all the need for documentation it is relevant to re-thing in what ways data is stored and when to analyses data (at storage time or at retrieval time).
One general message from such a visit is to appreciate people’s insight in these processes which clearly indicates that a user centered design process is the only suitable way to move innovation in such environments forward and create by this ownership and acceptance.
 A. Schmidt, F. Alt, D. Wilhelm, J. Niggemann, H. Feussner. Experimenting with ubiquitous computing technologies in productive environments. e & i Elektrotechnik und Informationstechnik, Springer Verlag. Volume 123, Number 4 / April, 2006. pages 135-139