Contextual Inquiry – Understanding the Workflow of Nurses

Nursing | June 21, 2017

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The key to providing quality point-of-care information resources is truly getting to know the workflow and pain points of the end-user. The EBSCO Health team recently took a deep dive into understanding the information need of nurses through Contextual Inquiry, see what Peter Darcy, Senior Director of Nursing Point of Care Product Management for EBSCO Health had to say on the process, findings and value of this research method.

At EBSCO Health, our mission is to drive evidence-based medicine and improve patient outcomes by providing healthcare professionals with the most useful information available. Our vision to fulfill this mission is making sure clinicians have access to the right information, at the right time, in the right context and in the right format. EBSCO Health sets the standard for currency in evidenced-based medicine with easy access to the information healthcare providers need anytime and anywhere.

In order to achieve this vision and in turn fulfill our mission, a deep understanding of the behaviors of our users, stakeholders and partners is required. This is where Contextual Inquiry is particularly helpful. Contextual Inquiry is a qualitative, user-driven research method where researchers meet participants in their workplace to observe organic information-seeking habits. These sessions provide information that leads to insights on the market, opportunities and/or the responsibilities and tasks of a specific role.

The value in Contextual Inquiry is that this method generates observational data, which uncovers the “why” behind the data and metrics. Through a Six Sigma method called Affinity Diagramming, we are able to synthesize the findings and identify key “themes” and opportunities for product development. These opportunities could be enhancements to existing products or entirely new products with a different value proposition, and the themes drive our product development strategy to create solutions that solve both known and hidden customer challenges.

Recently, EBSCO Health engaged in a comprehensive Contextual Inquiry project for the nursing market and we developed a deeper understanding of the tasks, values, issues and concerns of nurses. One of the themes that presented itself was what an important role and major responsibility nurses have with patient education. In the interviews, we learned that nurses rely heavily on the “teach back” method for providing patient education. In this method, nurses instruct the patient then have the patient re-tell the information back to the nurse to ensure understanding. While we understood that this method was used by nurses before we started the Contextual Inquiry process, we did not understand the reliance on and effectiveness of this method. Contextual Inquiry helped us to further our understanding of the context for the use of this method.

Another area we developed greater context for is nurses’ commitment to empowering their patients to manage their own health. In an interview, one nurse told us, “When patients are more engaged and are more informed, they are more compliant with their care plan. My immediate role is being a cheerleader.” Contextual Inquiry provides insights which are more powerful and impactful to understanding than what a quantitative research method can often deliver.

EBSCO Health has found that Contextual Inquiry is an excellent research methodology for developing insights on user behaviors. These insights have helped EBSCO Health develop a product strategy for nursing that fulfills our mission to provide access to the right evidenced based information, at the right time, in the right context and in the right format for nurses.

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