5 keys to EMR usability

By Michelle McNickle
09:31 AM

Ease of Learning/ Naturalness: Is the system burdensome and clunky? To be sure it isn’t, Nelson suggests providers take a close look at how they interact with their nurses when using the EMR in the demo. This goes for both patient encounters in the office and on the telephone, as well as incoming documentation, like test results and correspondence. “If it appears cumbersome or redundant, [physicians won’t] achieve the intended benefits because [they] just won’t use those features,” she said. “The best way to observe and understand the dance between nurse and provider is by taking a trip to see the EMR in operation at a practice.” Both the nurse and the provider should visit the site, said Nelson, to fully experience the change they’ll have to adapt to in their own office setting.

Effectiveness: Although an EMR’s effectiveness to streamline workflow is obvious when considering its usability, Waldren said providers should also consider the changes taking place in healthcare. “The current is based on volume: patients, procedures, etc.,” he said. “Patients aren’t connected. The future is value-based and consumer directed. Clinical data will be used to measure quality.” With that in mind, Waldren says it’s essential to find a system that will effectively straddle both worlds.

Efficiency: To Nelson, an EMR should save time, and even the smallest aspects of a system could mean wasted hours. However, some EMRs do a good job of allowing a nurse and a provider to easily work on the same computer station with fast log-out/log-in. “This keeps the active patient online to allow for the concurrent work of the provider and nurse. Even something as simple as keeping the electronic chart ‘open’ on the desktop can be a boon to workflow; a nurse or provider is often in one patient’s chart when a phone call interrupts their work, and they need to open another chart. But, of course, they don’t want to lose the one they are working on.”

One thing is for certain when it comes to EMRs and their usability: it’s an evolution that’s essentially controlled by the user. “EMR usability must evolve similarly in that as we try to use it within our day, we can see where improvements can be made,” said Nelson.

Click here for information about EHR usability and the EHR Usability Task Force at HIMSS.

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