A new white paper, “Defining and Testing EMR Usability: Principles and Proposed Methods of EMR Usability Evaluation and Rating,” identifies usability of clinical software systems for the electronic medical record as “one of the major factors, and possibly the most important factor hindering wide-spread adoption of EMRs.”
Released by HIMSS’ EHR Usability Task Force, the white paper emphasizes that usability principles and methods offer benefits for certification organizations “to test and rate products for usability.” Authors are task force members Jeff Belden, MD, HIMSS EHR Usability Task Force chair; Rebecca Grayson; and Janey Barnes, PhD.
This reference offers both in-depth and basic definitions of the term concluding that “a system with good usability is easy to use and effective.” In addition, anyone new to the topic or readers who want to expand their current knowledge will find the white paper:
• describes and defines usability as it pertains to the EMR;
• identifies a set of well-established principles of usability and design; and
• offers potential methods of assessing and rating EMR usability.
“Through our research, we found that usability as a requirement in the certification process could benefit product development for more usable EMR products and give users or decision makers more confidence in selecting clinical EMR systems,” says Belden. He explained that the task force also contacted the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology to better understand its program requirements for certification and for adding usability as a criterion to its EMR certification process, which CCHIT is now actively considering. Those criteria appear in the white paper.
The task force shares its own approach for usability rating of EMR products, information that provides a distinctive and definitive approach to consider. An abbreviated list of those recommendations follows, with the complete list in the white paper:
Start small: Begin usability rating with a focus on simple efficiency and effectiveness measures, including some initial patient safety checkpoints.
Develop measurements: Devise objective measures of efficiency that takes into account time of task and number of user interactions.
Define the process: Select a set of test tasks for evaluating efficiency that are frequently performed by providers, that are at risk of being inefficient, and that allow evaluation of tasks and workflow.
Create a 5-star rating system: Define the usability rating system using five stars based on an absolute standard.
Improve with time:Usability rating programs should evolve in sophistication over a multi-year period.
For more information, visit www.himss.org/ASP/topics_FocusDynamic.asp?faid=198.