How to evaluate a dental software’s usability

When purchasing EDR systems, buyers are often inundated with information such as features, system requirements, costs etc. Quite often the usability factor of software is overlooked, partly because it is difficult to define let alone measure. However since it is an important indicator for successful implementation, practices should take the time to evaluate the usability of an EDR before committing to a purchase.
EDR usability has generated a lot of discussion and there has even been a recommendation to include usability as a precondition for meaningful use certification . Nevertheless until this recommendation becomes official policy, dental practices are on their own when it comes to evaluating EDRs. While it may be tempting to simply compare the number and type of features offered by different EDRs, dentists should preferably use a demo version of the software and try to accomplish a series of tasks which would be performed in a typical workday.
These tasks should be a balanced mix of simple, everyday actions which will be frequently used for most patients as well as more complex tasks. At the same time, it should also be possible to complete intricate workflows efficiently. The demo should be tried by each group of potential users such as hygienists, administrators etc. so that everybody gets a chance to evaluate the software with regard to their own roles and responsibilities. Some EDR systems are so focused on the dentist’s role that ease of use for other groups is compromised. Testing the EDR with every group that will potentially use it will give a more balanced view of the system.
While testing the demo, practice managers must consider how long it takes to complete a typical task with no previous training as well as how much time it will take for less tech savvy users to get up to speed. The software should have a good knowledge base of helpful articles so that users can look up answers to questions themselves. There should be continuous feedback and visual indicators prompting users to complete the next step or to show when a particular task has been accomplished.
The most frequent usability problems encountered by EDR users are: difficulty in entering complex patient information, inability to edit imported charts and poor presentation of data. Evaluating the software with a trial or demo is more likely to highlight such hidden weaknesses or deficiencies rather than just comparing features or costs.
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