Observation chart design features affect the detection of patient deterioration: A systematic experimental evaluation

Christofidis, Melany J., Hill, Andrew, Horswill, Mark S. and Watson, Marcus O. (2016) Observation chart design features affect the detection of patient deterioration: A systematic experimental evaluation. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 72 1: 158-172. doi:10.1111/jan.12824

Author Christofidis, Melany J.
Hill, Andrew
Horswill, Mark S.
Watson, Marcus O.
Title Observation chart design features affect the detection of patient deterioration: A systematic experimental evaluation
Journal name Journal of Advanced Nursing   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1365-2648
Publication date 2016-01-01
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/jan.12824
Volume 72
Issue 1
Start page 158
End page 172
Total pages 15
Place of publication Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom
Publisher Blackwell Publishing
Language eng
Formatted abstract
To systematically evaluate the impact of several design features on chart-users’ detection of patient deterioration on observation charts with early-warning scoring-systems.


Research has shown that observation chart design affects the speed and accuracy with which abnormal observations are detected. However, little is known about the contribution of individual design features to these effects.

A 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 mixed factorial design, with data-recording format (drawn dots vs. written numbers), scoring-system integration (integrated colour-based system vs. non-integrated tabular system) and scoring-row placement (grouped vs. separate) varied within-participants and scores (present vs. absent) varied between-participants by random assignment.

205 novice chart-users, tested between March 2011–March 2014, completed 64 trials where they saw real patient data presented on an observation chart. Each participant saw eight cases (four containing abnormal observations) on each of eight designs (which represented a factorial combination of the within-participants variables). On each trial, they assessed whether any of the observations were physiologically abnormal, or whether all observations were normal. Response times and error rates were recorded for each design.

Participants responded faster (scores present and absent) and made fewer errors (scores absent) using drawn-dot (vs. written-number) observations and an integrated colour-based (vs. non-integrated tabular) scoring-system. Participants responded faster using grouped (vs. separate) scoring-rows when scores were absent, but separate scoring-rows when scores were present.

Our findings suggest that several individual design features can affect novice chart-users’ ability to detect patient deterioration. More broadly, the study further demonstrates the need to evaluate chart designs empirically.
Keyword Design
Human factors
Observation chart
Subjective judgements
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Medicine Publications
School of Psychology Publications
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