EHRs Not So User-Friendly

The usability (or lack thereof) of electronic health records is a key factor in their adoption, yet vendors do a poor job of systematically focusing on convenience of use throughout the development and testing of EHRs, concluded a recently released report.

The usability (or lack thereof) of electronic health records is a key factor in the adoption (or rejection) of EHRs, yet vendors do a poor job of systematically focusing on convenience of use throughout development and testing of e-records, concluded a recently released report.

Those findings aren't lost on doctors and other health care workers who have long complained of clunky interfaces, cumbersome click-through processes and incessant warnings issued by electronic records.

The research and design of EHRs typically lacks formal usability testing, user-centered design processes or "specific best practices and standards of design, testing, and monitoring of the usability of EHR products," concluded the report, Electronic Health Record Usability: Vendor Practices and Perspectives.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality published the report, which was conducted by James Bell Associates and the Altarum Institute.

The lack of usability could imperil President Obama's health care reform strategy, suggests Information Week:

Given the importance of EHR implementation to the success of health care reform, along with the strategy to demonstrate meaningful use of technology to improve patient outcomes, vendors should follow specific best practices and standards relating to health IT and incorporate them in their workflow during different phases of product development.

The British National Health Service recognized years ago that ease of use was critical to the success of electronic records. Since 2004, BNHS has pursued a Common User Interface program with the aim of "creating standards and guidance in support of the usability of clinical applications," reports Joel Amoussou, founder and chief executive officer of Efasoft, an IT consultancy.

The AHRQ report endorses creation of an independent body for developing standards and facilitating cooperation among vendors. Many vendors endorsed the idea, as well.

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