physical therapy documentation

Physical Therapy Complex Documentation Made Easier – Part 1


The Problem – Physical Therapy Documentation has so much information it was hard for users to find what they were looking for.
The Solution – Develop a familiar, fast, and rich navigation system that allows users to think physical therapy documentation and not where to find what they are looking for.

Accounting for so many possibilities, physical therapy documentation has been a tough nut to crack entering the Electronic Health Records (EHR) age.

There’s been three solutions up until now…

  • Writing everything down by hand or typing everything into a freeform template; which is fluid, but slow and doesn’t allow for reviewing data quickly.
  • The theme was to cram as many check boxes and dropdowns on the screen as possible. There are potentially many interconnected parts of the document in a form documenting a visit; therefore, this becomes unmanageable and slow.
  • Finally, the most popular approach was to collect data in different windows, that would allow for rich, complete entry, but is very slow to load and hard to navigate.

When approaching this problem to design our new Documentation Suite for physical therapy, I used inspiration from modern interface design for various business programs that need many options (like cash registers) and shopping websites, because retailers use visual design to find the buttons the user is looking for. What resulted is a navigation scheme that allows the user to very quickly hop between sections.

Any user that’s browsed news or shopped online will instantly recognize this navigational scheme. There’s a limited top level menu, which makes it easy to break a large selection of options into smaller subsets. The subsets are then present in a thematic order, sub-section by sub-section that fits the flow of a common patient visit to a physical therapist. In cases that are unique, the users frame of reference and clarity of the menu system, will allow the user to quickly scan. In less time, the user will have the system queued to memory.

Initial-EvalThis sidebar is the main way to navigate through top level sections. At the very top, the most essential tool is a drop down selector that allows you to choose the type of note. The note selector has options for various visit types. When a type of note is selected, small nuances about the note are changed and loaded. In an instant, the user’s previous initial evaluation becomes their next daily note or reevaluation.

Much of the form is loading in the background, so when the user clicks, she won’t be waiting 15-30 seconds for sections to load. When she clicks on a section for the first time, it will load the rest of the data, and then stay in memory as she navigates. This means very fast loading as she enters sections, and no loading as she hops back and forth between sections. Instead of the user waiting for windows to load, we wanted to make sure everything would be in view, but not in the way.

A simple click hides the previous, and shows the section of the user’s choice. No new windows open up for the documentation. If she needs two things at once, it’s quick to move between sections, she won’ be rearranging windows or using her operating system to switch between them. Items in need are within an easy, quick reach.

bestPT Documentation Design:

  • Familiar Menus
  • Note
  • Quick Loading
  • Easy Movement between sections