Hi Alexis and thank you for taking the time to both read and respond to this article! I do sincerely appreciate it.
In terms of your question regarding single versus multiple columns, that is a difficult one to answer without some significant insight into user behavior. I would, at the very least, have to spend some time with clinicians either interviewing them or walking through the interface with them to understand how they are using this particular area of the software. I would probably resist any major changes until I could really understand what is being accomplished with the current design and any feelings or emotions around it.
The thing to keep in mind is that clinicians have been trained to want to see everything on the screen at once. It’s Pavlovian in a certain sense because they are more frightened of missing a key piece of information about a patient than they are of wading through information-dense screens. The other aspect to remember is people get used to even the worst designs. Changing what they have already become accustomed to (even when it is for the better) can sometimes lead to a backlash or unintended consequences. But if they are already complaining about this area of the EHR, then the seeds of change have already been sown and that’s half the battle.
As a general rule of thumb, I would never design a screen with more than a single scrolling column on it — no matter how well it functioned. There could be exceptions (comparison interfaces, for example). But generally, it would be a “No” from the “design desk.” :)
In terms of records I have worked on — most of them have been “homegrown” or applications that plug into an EHR. If you would like to discuss more, send me a private note in this article and I’ll pass along my email. Or just connect with me on LinkedIn and I’d be happy to converse back and forth on this topic.