NIST seeks vendors' EHRs to study usability

By Mary Mosquera
11:26 AM

The National Institute of Standards and Technology needs the help of vendors to supply their existing electronic health records so the agency can conduct research on the systems to develop procedures for measuring and evaluating their usability.

NIST wants to come up with performance-oriented user interface design guidelines for EHRs as a framework for assessing the usability of EHRs, according to the agency.

[Podcast: 10 minutes with ONC head Farzad Mostashari, MD.]

NIST may also examine relevant instructions, documentation and EHR error messages, the agency said in an announcement in the Feb. 14 Federal Register. Manufacturers can sign up until March 15 to participate.

Providers increasingly rely on EHRs and require more functionality and robust performance from their systems, especially fueled by meaningful use criteria. But providers and health IT researchers have reported uneven usefulness, ease of usability and user satisfaction among EHRs.

Dr. Farzad Mostashari, the national health IT coordinator, has called for a usability framework developed through an open process with NIST and many individuals and organizations.

NIST may accept inpatient and outpatient EHR systems for its experiments.

“NIST will not accept actual personal health information as part of this project,” the agency said.

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NIST anticipates that it will take approximately one year to conduct all necessary research based at its usability laboratory in Gaithersburg, Md. Vendors’ products will not be modified during the research process, the agency assured.

Information acquired during the tests regarding potential usability problems will be reported to the respective manufacturer. Usability testing results for identifiable vendor systems will not be released but may be released as results from unidentified EHR systems in a subsequent NIST report.