Methodology for Usability

"the proposed rule proposes certification criteria that are intended to improve patient safety through the application of user-centered design processes and adherence to appropriate quality systems principles"

The ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT) wants a user-centered design methodology to be part of the development effort for certified EHRs. That's good, very good. Following a methodology that includes input from users increases the chances that the resulting EHR will be successful at decreasing errors and boosting the productivity of physicians and nurses.

"But wait" you might say. "A methodology does not guarantee that an EHR is better." Yes, you're right. Ideally we want EHRs with measurably better productivity, measurably better error rates, and measurably faster learning times. However, no EHR vendor in their right mind will publish the results of their internal tests. Any bad results would be bad for business. And we don't yet have Consumer Reports evaluating EHRs.

Someday we will have an easy-to-use scorecard for selecting an EHR that takes into account measurable outcomes, including prescribing errors, provider efficiency, and time to learn. Until then we can feel pretty comfortable knowing that our EHR vendor followed all the right steps that should lead to a better, more usable EHR – observing practitioners, creating personas and scenarios of use, conducting usability tests throughout the methodology, and iterating on the design.

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