The Future of Medical Records

Designers dreamed up patient records that can actually help and serve patients. 

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Beverly Sum, San Francisco

Electronic medical records are not working like they should -- or could -- according to a new analysis in Health Affairs that revisited previous predictions for the EMR revolution and found disappointing results, in terms of efficiency,saved costs, and patient care.

The practical concerns pointed out by the study include ease of use and ability to share information across systems. But another important metric -- the corollary to questions like Would You Want to See Everything Your Doctor Writes About You?" -- is, What would you, the patient, do with that information provided you were granted access?

The federal government took the Department of Veterans Affairs' current record system, which "looks and feels like a receipt," and challenged designers to reimagine the Continuity of Care Document, an EMR output used to describe a patient's health history.

Technology is "only a tool," as an expert who helped push for the adoption of EMRs under President Obama told The New York Times. "Like any tool, it can be used well or poorly." 

Here are some ways it could be done very, very well, as put forward by entrants:

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William Brian Smith and Leigh Salem from Studio TACK, Brooklyn, NY

A medical history "snapshot" that the designers imagine a patient might keep on her fridge for easy reference.


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Sanny Lin, Shao-Chi Oy, Kris Wan, and Emelyn Baker, Champaign, IL

A narrative format combining clinical and colloquial language.


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Christopher Goranson, Jihoon Kang, and Sayoko Yoshida from Parsons Institute for Information Mapping, The New School

Color, icons, and graphs are used to highlight important information in a way that is easily digestible.


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Daniel Mall, Philadelphia

Essential information is further streamlined and simplified.


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Mike Parker, Dan McGorry, and Kel Smith from HealthEd, Clark, NJ

Physical, emotional, and lifestyle factors combine to create a single health score on a 1-100 scale.


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Amy Guterman, Stephen Menton, Defne Civelekoglu, Kunal Bhat, Amy Seng, and Justin Rheinfrank from gravitytank, Chicago

The winning entry, among others, imagines records being easily accessible from mobile devices.


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Eric Benoit, Jon Follett, Ben Salinas, and Juhan Sonin from Involution Studios, Boston

In a unique visualization of holistic health, symptom clusters take on specific shapes.


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Christopher Goranson, Jihoon Kang, and Sayoko Yoshida from Parsons Institute for Information Mapping, The New School

Naturally, no patient-friendly design would be complete without a well-thought out glossary of side-effect icons.


Presented by

Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon and a former writer and producer for The Atlantic's Health Channel.

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