Medical Road Signs

A system of visual icons could cut down on doctors' mistakes

Medical Icons

Clear as a bell?Lamy et al, BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making

Road signs have been a blessing to many drivers, acting as a quick guide away from danger or to the nearest gas stations. Now researchers in France have come up with an iconic language of their own to help lead doctors to the right drug prescription. Jean-Baptiste Lamy and his colleagues at the University of Paris hope the VCM (Visulaisation des Connaissances Médicales) icon system will help lessen prescribing errors. Something often traced to restraints on physicians' time and resources that prevent them from easily looking up or remembering drug properties. With VCM, doctors can see the risks associated with any given drug at a glance.

Sentence

Lamy et al, BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making

The icons can even be put into groups to graphically represent complex sentences such as "Risk of hepatic problems, requiring hepatic monitoring; if an hepatic problem occurs, stop the treatment." [Left]

The eleven physicians who tested the system as part of a study published in BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, learned VCM in a matter of hours. Once they had it down, doctors understood VCM questions almost twice as fast and several percentage points more accurately than text.