Usability provides the foundation

At WebPT, we are glad that the EMR industry is finally realizing that usability is the key to adoption. The widespread use of Electronic Medical Records will not only save money and time for providers, but also for patients. The benefits of full EMR adoption are immense.

 

Proposed "solution" to increase usability 

What is somewhat perplexing is the method that is being proposed to increase usability of existing systems. A recent article from Kevin MD cited the Government as a great way to standardize and test usability requirements. I have some issues with this approach and I am sure many providers are with me on this one. Before I explain, let’s get some background.

 

Creating a usable product

Usability has always been a number one priority for WebPT. We feel that if your system isn’t usable it doesn’t matter what kind of blood, sweat and tears went into building it. This mindset is crucial to software and is exactly the reason development teams need a Subject Matter Expert (SME). A Subject Matter Expert is essentially a person who will use the product after the development phase. The SME is your target audience and they are chock full of insights into how the system should work in the clinical setting.  How are software programmers supposed to understand the nuances of a patient encounter? They must have a resource available to provide them the necessary insight. If you don’t understand the needs of the customer you are designing for, you won’t be able to create a highly usable system.

 

Mandating Usability

Back to the article in question: If expertise is what we need in the development process, how is the Federal Government going to provide that? There are hundreds of medical specialties that each require different modules, tests, and workflows. The missing ingredient in EMR software is the expertise not the standardization. If your end user is considered every step of the way, you will create a system that ranks high in the usability department. Systems that are currently low in the usability department will eventually become obsolete. The end result will be a robust marketplace with usability at its foundation. It is not the Government’s responsibility to ensure software vendors are making good products; fortunately, the free market already knows how to weed out unwanted products.

 

How can the government help?

The government could assist adoption of EMR by implementing initiatives that foster entrepreneurship in the Healthcare IT space or by expanding their incentive offerings to include medical professionals outside of MDs, but relying on them to ensure a usable EMR seems counterintuitive. What are your thoughts on the Government getting involved with EMR usability requirements?

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