How Style Guides Sustain Effective Consistency In EHR Design

John B. Sparling | EHR Intelligence | January 6, 2014

Style guides have been described as an EHR designer’s “source of truth.” Many large healthcare organizations design their own unique style guide to create a framework used and recognized at various department levels in implementing an EHR to place orders and record clinical documentation.

Clinical documentation

The physical appearance of forms used in electronic clinical documentation must be uniformly consistent throughout a provider’s electronic records archive. Concepts as simple as the background color of a form, for example, should be considered for display contrast under various lighting conditions. Other criteria or “human factors” must be thought out as well and may include, for example: font size, type and color, placement of data labels (above or below the input field) for ease of reading, and clarity and comprehension of subject matter.

End users associate color with content, with green representing safety and red as danger. These concepts can be worked into forms but must be agreed upon in advance and documented. For a small percentage of the population — seven to ten percent — red-green color blindness is a factor (found most often in men) that must be addressed as they will not perceive the message that the color is intended to pass on. In those cases additional warning or information is necessary.