Today’s hospital is a place of constant information flow, with patients relying on technology more than ever before for records management, for communication with loved ones, for online research, and for the simple distraction of playing games or watching YouTube.

Although a patient may perform all of these computing tasks at home on a regular basis, accessing the same information resources in the hospital presents tremendous usability challenges. A patient’s cognitive and emotional states are under constant manipulation by stress, pain, and medication. The patient is situated in a highly constrained physical environment subject to challenges in both ergonomics and sanitation. Transient changes in capabilities leave patients frustrated and uncomfortable even with familiar UIs.

In this position paper, we describe the hospital as an environment in which users have rapidly-changing cognitive and ergonomic capabilities, and argue that the hospital patient should be treated as a situationally impaired computer user. We highlight unique opportunities to leverage hospital-specific data streams to mitigate this problem, and we discuss the applicability of dynamic adaption and existing assistive technologies.