Kathie J. Deja is a graduate assistant in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., is the vice president of product management and sports medicine at StairMaster Sports/Medical Products Inc., and James A. Peterson, Ph.D., is a sports medicine specialist residing in Monterey, Calif. Both Peterson and Bryant are fellows and active members of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and internationally known authors and speakers on topics relating to fitness and nutrition.
|Table 3. Guidelines for Selecting a System Product|
|Content and||Systems should be network and Windows compatible and offer fully|
|technology||integrated modules such as fitness assessment, health-risk assessment, front desk management activity and incentive tracking. Advanced systems will operate on Wide Area Networks (WANs) and be able to easily import data from third-party systems such as human resource and medical databases. They will also be able to merge data from multiple sites into super databases. Industry leaders will provide direct integration with leading word processors to facilitate targeted, personalized letters, forms, labels, educational materials and newsletters. Product updates should be distributed as a single self-extracting file downloaded from the vendor’s web site.|
|Flexibility||Quality systems permit users to tailor functions to their specific needs. Ample user-defined fields, default options, internal custom report writers, and easy data export functions are also important. Updates and custom add-on programs can be maintained separately. Well-designed system architecture will incorporate “hooks” that allow further custom programs (when necessary) to reside outside the core source code of the system.|
|Ease of use||If a system is difficult to use, it won’t get used. Unfriendly software becomes the equivalent of the consumers’ cycle ergometer used as a clothes rack. The best way to determine user-friendliness is to take a test drive. Vendors should provide you with a working demonstration version — not a slide show. Good systems have installations that take just a few minutes and prompt you every step of the way. Users should be able to move aroused launch modules, and perform basic functions with little or no reference to manuals. Screens should be inviting, not intimidating. Prompts should lead users through more complicated tasks. Query screens for group data analyses should be simple with fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice options for major variables.|
|Reprinted by permission from Michael M. Dehn. Health promotion software should provide solutions, not problems. AWHP’s Action. 20 (2): 1,11, 1998.|
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Tags: software, technology, wide area networks