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Reporting Framework at Durban

Posted by pihemr on July 14, 2008

The Durban conference presented the community with a great opportunity to discuss many newly developed features soon to be released in OpenMRS version 1.3.  One of the most significant of these is the new reporting framework.

Although general in nature, the primary goal of the reporting framework is to ease development of aggregate indicator-based reports.  Given that many organizations share the same reporting requirements for agencies like Pepfar and the Global Fund, our goal is to foster collaboration and knowledge, thus reducing the work involved for all.

As developers involved with producing this framework, we entered the conference aiming to demonstrate the capabilities, to gather feedback, particularly on usability, and to rework the functionality as needed.  This proved to be a very valuable experience.  Initial feedback, early in the week, was that the interface was far too unwieldy for a non-technical user of the system.  This resulted in the first of our redevelopment efforts, a completely rebuilt report design interface, in which the user follows a configuration wizard to complete the design process.  As this was iteratively developed on site, by the end of the week we were able to demonstrate these revisions to the wider audience.  We received a very positive response and a number of useful suggestions for continued improvement.

One of the more interesting suggestions came from Christian, never shy with his opinions on user experience.  His contention is that the report design process can be driven wholly from an “example report”, expanding on the ideas utilized in the ReportTemplate module.  The basis of this design would involve starting with a template file in a format that most users are very familiar with – Excel, Word, Text, or similar, and initiating the design process from there, with wizards to help the rest of the way.

It is clear to me following the meetings in Durban that user-experience will continue to play a larger and larger role in the success of OpenMRS and, as with the reporting framework, iterative design and continued community involvement will be key to this success.

-Mike Seaton

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