Submission Type

Case Study


Collaborative Design, Disease Notification, Health Information Technology, Informatics, Participatory Design, Public Health, Public Health Informatics, Public Health Surveillance, Quality Improvement


Introduction: Surveillance, or the systematic monitoring of disease within a population, is a cornerstone function of public health. Despite significant investment in information technologies (IT) to improve the public’s health, health care providers continue to rely on manual, spontaneous reporting processes that can result in incomplete and delayed surveillance activities.

Background: Participatory design principles advocate including real users and stakeholders when designing an information system to ensure high ecological validity of the product, incorporate relevance and context into the design, reduce misconceptions designers can make due to insufficient domain expertise, and ultimately reduce barriers to adoption of the system. This paper focuses on the collaborative and informal participatory design process used to develop enhanced, IT-enabled reporting processes that leverage available electronic health records in a health information exchange to prepopulate notifiable-conditions report forms used by public health authorities.

Methods: Over nine months, public health stakeholders, technical staff, and informatics researchers were engaged in a multiphase participatory design process that included public health stakeholder focus groups, investigator-engineering team meetings, public health survey and census regarding high-priority data elements, and codesign of exploratory prototypes and final form mock-ups.

Findings: A number of state-mandated report fields that are not highly used or desirable for disease investigation were eliminated, which allowed engineers to repurpose form space for desired and high-priority data elements and improve the usability of the forms. Our participatory design process ensured that IT development was driven by end user expertise and needs, resulting in significant improvements to the layout and functionality of the reporting forms.

Discussion: In addition to informing report form development, engaging with public health end users and stakeholders through the participatory design process provided new insights into public health workflow and allowed the team to quickly triage user requests while managing user expectations within the realm of engineering possibilities.

Conclusion: Engaging public health, engineering staff, and investigators in a shared codesigning process ensured that the new forms will not only meet real-life needs but will also support development of a product that will be adopted and, ultimately, improve communicable and infectious disease reporting by clinicians to public health.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.