Usability evaluation of a commercial inpatient portal

Po Yin Yen, Daniel M. Walker, Jessica M.Garvey Smith, Michelle P. Zhou, Terri L. Menser, Ann Scheck McAlearney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Objectives Patient portals designed for inpatients have potential to increase patient engagement. However, little is known about how patients use inpatient portals. To address this gap, we aimed to understand how users 1) interact with, 2) learn to use, and 3) communicate with their providers through an inpatient portal. Materials and methods We conducted a usability evaluation using think-aloud protocol to study user interactions with a commercially available inpatient portal – MyChart Bedside (MCB). Study participants (n = 19) were given a tablet that had MCB installed. They explored MCB and completed eight assigned tasks. Each session's recordings were coded and analyzed. We analyzed task completion, errors, and user feedback. We categorized errors into operational errors, system errors, and tablet-related errors, and indicated their violations of Nielsen's ten heuristic principles. Results Participants frequently made operational errors with most in navigation and assuming non-existent functionalities. We also noted that participants’ learning styles varied, with age as a potential factor that influenced how they learned MCB. Also, participants preferred to individually message providers and wanted feedback on status. Conclusion The design of inpatient portals can greatly impact how patients navigate and comprehend information in inpatient portals; poor design can result in a frustrating user experience. For inpatient portals to be effective in promoting patient engagement, it remains critical for technology developers and hospital administrators to understand how users interact with this technology and the resources that may be necessary to support its use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-18
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Informatics
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Inpatient
  • Patient portal
  • Personal health record
  • Usability
  • User-Computer Interface
  • Heuristics
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Inpatients/statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Young Adult
  • Feedback
  • Consumer Behavior/statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Aged
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Patient Portals/statistics & numerical data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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