The ability for healthcare workers to make split-second decisions with the help of visual cues could mean life or death for a patient. This means, then, in an emergency situation, what visual cues can enable healthcare workers to make those split-second decisions on behalf of the patient?
Olle Torgny, a designer in Sweden, is part of a project that aims to answer that question. In his words 1:
How could medical personnel see in a glance if a patient would need special treatment?
In the course of his work, he and his project team are proposing the following familiar symbol as a visual cue regarding emergency patient needs:
I think the undertaking is fascinating and the potential to save human lives is immense. But, I’m curious about whether or not the visual cue will be effective in doing so. Here are my concerns:
The symbol is a six sided star – a familiar star found in healthcare. The top half of the star generally represents “emergency” and the bottom half of the star generally represents “observe”. But, there are permutations of the six sides that can become confusing and violates the “in a glance” principle in visual management.
Mathematically, if we have 6 sides and that means there are potentially 6^6 permutations, each of which has its own meaning.
There could be 6^6 permutations
If I’m correct in my assumption, then I’m not sure if this visual cue will be helpful or add clarity in emergency situations. It might add unnecessary complexity.
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? If I’m right (and I could be very wrong in my assumptions), then do you think this symbol would add clarity or confusion in emergency situations?
I wonder if healthcare workers – doctors and physicians – have tested whether this symbol is helpful to them. After all, healthcare workers are the consumers of this symbol and the beneficiary is the patient.
- all images are from Olle Torgny’s website ↩