How important is EHR Usability to the overall uptake and use of EHRs by clinicians and their practice teams? This is an often ignored, but critical factor. It is also the most difficult to do well and requires multiple product iterations, the input of usability and human factor experts and more importantly, a very clear understanding of the requirements of the EHR from a clinical, workflow and operational perspective.
There are many EHRs that on paper meet all of the criteria required for certification, however usability is more difficult to quantify and to a large degree is subjective. As vendors build out their EHRs to meet Stages 1, 2 & 3 of Meaningful Use, they will need to simultaneously consider how these EHR products integrate new features in a way that fits with clinician workflow. They will also need to do this keeping in mind that many users vary in their keyboarding and documentation skills and can differ quite significantly from a cognitive perspective in terms of how they evaluate a patient encounter and use tools that are available to them to support clinical decision making.
It is hard to project into the future, but I believe that EHR functionality over time will become commoditized. All EHRs will be able to do all of the things required of them for clinical documentation, population health, quality reporting etc. They will differentiate from one another in the areas of support and integration with other health IT systems and diagnostic devices. There will also be a few that will get usability right. Just as Apple seems to repeat their successes over and over by making complex things simple to the end user, vendors that understand and can translate EHR requirements into truly usable tools will be the success stories of Health IT.
In a ‘Viewpoint’ article in JAMIA (The Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association), authors Karsh et al, discuss the fallacies and sober realities of Health Information Technology. JAMIA 2010;17:617-623 doi:10.1136/jamia.2010.005637 – Read the Abstract (Full article requires a subscription to JAMIA.)
How important is usability to you in terms of your selection and use of an EHR? Can you share any experiences you have had with EHRs that highlight the importance of usability? Add your thoughts by clicking on the ‘Comments’ link below.
This post is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the American College of Physicians (ACP). ACP does not endorse a specific EHR brand or product and ACP makes no representations, warranties, or assurances as to the accuracy or completeness of the information provided herein.