[[xref:http://www.klinikum.uni-heidelberg.de/ShowSingleNews.7870.0.html?&cHash=d7855bc361&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=7868&tx_ttnews%5BpS%5D=1207315752&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=3685|Heidelberg University Hospital has conducted a study to determine how best to get people to read important e-mails about medical prescriptions that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle of spam and other messages.
The result: design counts.
Don't get all nutty with animations, but do consider including graphic design elements and an aesthetically pleasing font.
The study by the German hospital's Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Pharmacoepidemiology has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.
The hospital uses a pharmaceutical advisory system called AiDKlinik to distribute e-mail accessible to some 6,500 employees, who access drug dosage recommendations and other such information on the healthcare facility's computer systems.
"We naturally are very interested in having [e-mails about drug prescriptions] actually reach the user. In view of the flood of e-mails, this is becoming increasingly difficult," said Professor Dr. Walter E. Haefeli, medical director of the Department of Internal Medicine VI at Heidelberg University Hospital, in a statement.
The study involved two campaigns of sending e-mails (see samples) with identical contents but in five different formats to get a feel for which formats invited recipients to open them most often. Between a fifth and a fourth of recipients opened the e-mail. Closer to a third opened more graphically designed messages and 73 per cent more users opened messages with Times font rather than old-fashioned Courier font.