The Slow Crawl Toward Improved EHR Usability and Interoperability

Usability testing for EHR

Well-developed electronic health records hold the promise of helping health care professionals improve patient care and deliver it more efficiently, and the American Medical Association recognizes that enhancing EHR usability and interoperability will further ensure our nation's goal of a high-performing health care system. Physicians are generally prolific users of technology: new patient monitoring devices, diagnostic imaging, equipment and advanced surgical tools, to name a few. In each case, physicians have adopted these tools quickly and became proficient users -- and they have done so without the need for a national incentive program. Why is it, then, that so many physicians are still trying to incorporate EHRs into their practices?

EHR Usability

According to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, "usability is one of the major factors -- possibly the most important factor -- hindering widespread adoption of [EHRs]." Surprisingly, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT does not provide physicians any information about the usability of EHRs that it certifies. Usability standards should be included in ONC's certification criteria to ensure that physicians are able to invest in the EHR system that fits the needs of their practice.
Many physicians report they are unhappy with the EHR products available to them, likely due to the fact that EHRs are still in an immature stage of development. They find them clunky, confusing and complex, and they are struggling to successfully incorporate EHRs into their workflow. According to a recent survey of physicians by American EHR Partners, approximately one-third of all surveyed physicians said that they were very dissatisfied with their EHR and that it is becoming more difficult to return to pre-EHR productivity levels.

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