Usability is key for EHR adoption

If you build or create something, wouldn't you take into account ease of use? It is unfathomable then that most EHR vendors do not systematically conduct EHR usability testing, according to Jiajie Zhang, who is overseeing a federal research project on the science of EHR usability in the SHARP program.

If you build or create something, wouldn't you take into account ease of use? It is unfathomable then that most EHR vendors do not systematically conduct EHR usability testing, according to Jiajie Zhang, who is overseeing a federal research project on the science of EHR usability in the SHARP program.

The three-plus year project will look at the usability factor. Zhang, co-director of the National Center for Cognitive Informatics and Decision Making in Healthcare, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, noted that only a handful of EHR vendors have in-house teams working on usability issues.

Given that usability is one of the top barriers to physician adoption of EHRs, this is a critical project. While the research is ongoing, however, EHR vendors who aren’t spending R&D on product usability should take note and make strategic investments to address their workflow shortcomings.

Where to start if you're at ground zero? An easy one is to conduct an electronic survey of clients, which should include anyone who touches your system and multiple users within a site. If you're big enough to have a user conference, dedicate a session on EHR usability. Make it interactive and inclusive. Analyze what's going on in the helpdesk area of your business.

With greater scrutiny of the EHR products, which came as a result of the HITECH Act federal incentive programs, the Wild, Wild West is no longer the scenario in the EHR marketplace. Well, you'd think it shouldn't be. Given that few have in-house teams that focus on usability factors, I may have been premature with my assumptions.

Regardless of where the industry truly is, The Wild, Wild West should be and will be the thing of the past. Companies live and die by glitches to their products and how they recover from them. Investments in usability are the first step toward sustainability and growth in a hot market.

 

Patty Enrado blogs regularly at EHRWatch.com.