Usability: the Single Largest Issue Confronting EHRs?

Wide spread adoption of EHRs is one of the key steps which will ensure better and cheaper access to health care for the majority of Americans. There is no doubt that the health care system was in urgent need of upgrading to digital systems as the old paper-based record keeping could not cope with the increasing volume of patients.

Even as CMS launched the meaningful use program with a variety of incentives and penalties, there have been vocal negative backlash from various quarters. Many of the early complaints voiced against EHRs have slowly been addressed and the modern cloud-based systems of today are a far cry from the first generation of medical software products. Unfortunately, usability issues continues to be the single biggest problem facing physicians who have to use the systems everyday.

Most physicians continue to believe that using EHRs is the way forward. Nevertheless that doesn’t mean they are happy with the systems being offered on the market today. Some people may dismiss usability as unimportant but for physicians and other employees who are forced to use computers for most documentation, badly designed software can add to the already considerable time they spend on non patient-related tasks.

In fact, a recent report suggests that the time-consuming and cumbersome data entry methods foisted upon doctors by EHRs actually contributes to poor job satisfaction (Study published by the RAND Corporation, 2014). Physicians who perceive that they are not providing the highest quality of care for their patients tend to have lower professional satisfaction and this is further exacerbated by the fact that many EHRs are poorly designed to accommodate the needs of medical professionals. A fair number of doctors complain that EHR software forces them to do basic clerical tasks like data entry instead of concentrating on their patients.

Some of the very features touted by vendors such as reminders, problem list etc. are also cited by users as being disruptive. This is because many of these features are included in the software with no thought as to how they might affect the workflow of the end-user. Physicians complain that these pop-ups distract them when talking to patients and very often, they end up clicking through without reading what is in the alert. In the end, this practice leads to more harm than good.

Fortunately vendors are listening to feedback from doctors and improving their products. Dovetail EDR, for instance, was designed in collaboration with practicing dentists to make sure that it does not prove to be more distracting than useful. A cloud-based, easy-to-use interface means that you can spend more time on doing what’s best for your patients.





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