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Emergence of Usability as a Key Factor in EHR Adoption

The influence of Usability in Electronic Health Records

As a result of the advent of Health Information Exchange (HIE) stemming from technological innovation, wider adoption of Electronic Health Records has tremendously enhanced care delivery.

Technological development is iterative, requiring constant modifications to upgrade and improve previous versions. Changes in Health IT such as ICD-10 implementation and Meaningful Use compliance have overwhelmed healthcare providers. More crucially, this has provided a strong base to further develop the industry. Experts now believe that the industry has reached a tipping point where focus on providing Electronic Medical Records has shifted to the empowerment of patients and providers.

Traditionally, Health IT systems were designed to perform clinical transactions for providers and not support decision-making. Electronic Health Records are now garnering support for usability as they are being integrated with the process of care provision. This usually means making healthcare systems easier to use. While developing easy to use systems is a vital component in the whole system, it should not be the only component that needs to be concentrated on.

With a myriad of stakeholders involved in the care delivery process, we need to make sure that communication between these stakeholders is smooth. The future of Health IT depends upon the overall integration of the healthcare system. We need to think about usability as a perfect connection between technology, use, training and design which enhances our own prospects and potential. We also need to consider technology such as Electronic Medical Records as a usable tool through which we can maximize our potential.

The American Medical Informatics Association conducted a research on the usability of EHRs and suggested the development of a common user interface for specific functionalities of EHR, along with performance assessments of patient safety related functions of EHR. The research recommended adoption and use of best practices for implementing EHR systems. An important suggestion made in the research was the possible addition of usability considerations for patient-sensitive functions in the ONC's Standards and Interoperability Framework.

Some industry experts are sceptical about the strong focus on simplicity and ease-of-use when they talk about usability, arguing that the fast pace of the industry would suddenly slow down if more thought is not given to incorporating design, function and performance - creating an optimum balance between them.

Farzad Mostashari, National Coordinator of Health IT said, ""The goal is clear...there should be a greater emphasis on usability, a better science around how to measure usability and an improved ability of providers to use usability in their purchasing decisions."

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Scott Parker is a renowned Health IT expert who actively contributes to the leading industry forums by writing insightful and critical content encompassing current topics such as the EMR, practice management, eRx, patient portal, revenue cycle management, compliance, privacy and security. For more information, contact Scott Parker at scott.parker@curemd.com