Government to test ease of use for health IT systems

By Mary Mosquera
09:29 AM

The Commerce Department's National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) plans to develop standards to help evaluate the ease-of-use of healthcare IT systems.

In a notice on a federal contracting Web site, NIST announced it was looking for companies to create a "usability framework" for health IT systems. The job would require "development, refinement and harmonization of HIT usability standards and certification processes."

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, NIST was given a role to help the Office of the National Coordinator build a testing infrastructure for EHR systems to ensure interoperability and security. The institute might also be given a role in the certification of such systems.

Among the services sought in the contract, NIST wants a firm that can delve into "human factors analysis" and "cognitive task analysis," ways of analyzing how people react to software instructions.

NIST also wants its contractors to develop some general theories about health IT design features and to evaluate those theories via "usability" testing.

Ultimately, NIST was to create a "well-defined usability evaluation process that includes a roadmap for implementation and indicates where policy decisions are required."