User-Centered Design and Patient Safety: The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act  

Hospitals and physicians have to implement and use (as in meaningful use) a certified EHR if they want payment incentives from Medicare and Medicaid. A proposed new rule for certification and meaningful use of EHRs is now publicly available. And there is good news for us lovers of user-centered design and improved user experiences with EHRs. First, some background.

Background: Medicare and Medicaid Incentive Programs, and the ONC HIT Certification Program

A certified EHR has passed specific tests administered by CCHIT or other ONC-authorized organization, primarily functionality tests. For example, does the inpatient EHR check for drug-drug and drug-allergy interactions? Does it maintain a current problem list for the patient? Does it provide computerized provider order entry? Can it maintain confidential data and work with other systems?

None of the required testing involves usability. (though CCHIT has an optional usability evaluation process for ambulatory EHRs). Usability is about to take a leap forward for the medical profession.

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