“Fat Finger Syndrome” Not Just a Google Problem

In trying to keep things light this week, I’ve taken inspiration from two very different sources – NPR and Homer Simpson. A recent Morning Edition piece on “Fat Fingers Blamed for Mobile Ad Clicks” highlights the problem many smart phone users face -  large fingers on a small screen usually result in the occasional misspelling, accidental click on a field or image, or unintended dial.

The story concentrated on “Google’s launch of a new type of mobile ad that aims to combat the ‘fat finger’ problem. As the smart phone market grows, mobile ads have become more important to the tech giant, which makes most of its revenue through advertising.”

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Listening to the piece, which started off with a hilarious sound bite from the Simpsons, made me wonder if EMR developers face this same type of problem when developing their software for mobile devices. What sort of consequences do providers face as a result of unintended clicks or incorrect data entry?

I polled a few friends who work in healthcare IT user experience (coincidentally, a topic that I heard come up quite often during the fall conference season), and they brought up numerous cases – some with dire consequences – of mistaken medication administration because of very similar patient names.

I also came across the ubiquitous drawback of using tablets in healthcare: “The iPad is difficult to type on, [one provider] complains, and his “fat fingers” struggle to navigate the screen,” according to a Kaiser Health News story last year.

But, providers, as they so often do, are creating workarounds. One family practice in particular has “introduced a stylus since some people occasionally suffer from ‘fat finger syndrome’ (some people just have an innate ability to miss the buttons in the questionnaire when they use their fingers).”

How have you, your practice or your colleagues dealt with pleasantly plump pads of the finger? Please share your anecdotes in the comments section below.