The concept of “usability” continues to surface during discussions about health information technology and in particular, the use of electronic health records (EHR).
Usability is defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as:
….the effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction with which the intended users can achieve their tasks in the intended context of product use.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently published an article emphasizing the importance of Usability—or more importantly that “User-Centered Design” (UCD) needs to be considered when designing EHRs and that usability should be tested.
UCD has also been discussed across multiple agencies and experts. UCD is a process that assures that EHRs are efficient, effective and satisfying to the user.
The National Institutes of Standards and Technology recently partnered with the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) to provide additional details on how to utilize UCD processes for improving the usability of EHRs.
So why all the talk about usability when so many EHR systems are already designed and in use?
- Because use of existing systems are often not intuitive—causing the “user” to select screens or options which may not be their desired choice—which wastes time and creates a possibility for errors.
- Because health care providers do not want to click through a dozen screens to complete their task.
- Because this is considered a barrier to adoption of EHRs.
- Because most EHR systems need improvement in this area.
One great benefit of HITECH is that the barriers are front and center—and hopefully competition and innovation will create a glide path for better EHR systems.