EHR Usability

Usability — A Key Limitation for EHR Systems

An April 25 article in Government Health IT highlighted the importance of usability to the effective adoption and use of EHRs.

Author Mary Mosquera states:

“With meaningful use, providers will expect more functionality and robust performance from their EHRs. But providers and health IT researchers say there is uneven usefulness, ease of usability and user satisfaction among EHRs.”

“As a result, the ONC will develop guidelines to measure an EHR’s usability in coordination with public and private organizations and NIST,” said National Coordinator Farzad Mostashari, MD. “All too often we hear from providers that they look forward to the day when the technology works for them instead of them working for the technology,” he said at the meeting April 21.

Usability is difficult to measure. It is also difficult to anticipate until one actually begins to use an EHR. The process of selecting and purchasing a system is drawn out and complex, and it is easier to ensure that technical and functional specifications are satisfied than to determine usability. Usability should be based upon solid development principles; however, there is also a significant subjective element.

At AmericanEHR, we have defined a number of usability measures to compare EHR systems against one another based upon ease of use. Usability is measured according to the following:

How easy or difficult is it to perform the following activities with your EHR system?

  • Maintain an up-to-date problem list of current and active diagnoses
  • Manage or append data previously recorded in the medical history
  • Document a progress note for each encounter
  • Record an Advance Directive
  • Use clinical decision support
  • Use E/M coding support when charting a patient visit
  • Retrieve a scanned document on a particular patient
  • Send a message to your staff
  • Generate patient-specific educational material
  • Generate a patient referral letter
  • Generate a clinical encounter summary that can be provided to the patient upon request

The objective behind this set of usability questions is to evaluate a range of basic and advanced EHR functionality from a subjective user perspective. In order for a score to be published, all products must receive at least 10 ratings from a verified clinician (physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner).

Based upon the AmericanEHR Top 10 Ratings (login required) for June 28, 2011, the Top 5 EHR systems in the category of Overall Usability are as follows:

  1. Amazing Charts
  2. SpringCharts EHR
  4. e-MDs Solution Series
  5. eClinicalWorks

Click here to view the AmericanEHR vendor directory and review additional EHR products ratings.

Also, watch out for the upcoming report from AmericanEHR, “EHR Adoption and Use in the Small Medical Practice.”


2 responses to "Usability — A Key Limitation for EHR Systems"
  • June 29, 2011
    Bonnie Morgan

    All of the EHR’s appear to be easy to use when you see them demo’d by people experienced with the software. It is a different story once you actually use it.

  • September 27, 2011
    it consulting washington dc

    It is extremely useful for me. Big thumbs up for this weblog post!

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