Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

EHR Usability Cause of Key Pain Points for Healthcare CIOs

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

EHR adoption is increasing, but EHR usability remains a problem for end-users trying to enter and access data efficiently.

- Whereas EHR adoption continues to increase among healthcare organizations and providers, EHR usability remains a problem for end-users trying to enter and access data efficiently, according to a new Frost & Sullivan survey of healthcare CIOs.

Meaningful Use Requirements

EHR users have often complained about the time commitment associated with EHR data entry and its impact on physician-patient interaction, but they appear to be encountering difficulties finding information in the EHR as well.

Running from March to May 2014, Frost & Sullivan surveyed health IT professionals in conjunction with the College of Health Information Management Executives (CHIME), focusing primarily on healthcare CIOs working in mid- to large-sized community hospitals.

According to preview of the report, problems related to searching EHRs are commonplace. The slowness of the EHR systems and a lack of precise query results are preventing EHR users from conveniently accessing unstructured data or performing targeted searches.

The report identifies main causes of these EHR search-related problems as rudimentary search functionalities and poor EHR usability rather than a lack of end-user training or clinical resistance to EHR adoption. Helping improve search features in core EHR technology is a mixture of national language processing and visualization tools, the authors of the report claim.

The authors indicate that immaturity of current EHR technology should generate competition among EHR and health IT developers to create more useable EHR software. However, a lack of progress now could have could have far-reaching effects moving forward on patient safety let alone the delivery of quality care, says the head of the association connected with the survey.

“Interoperability and usability of the data are important as we continue to push for clear standards including patient matching and data definition,” President and CEO Russell P. Branzell, FCHIME, CHCIO, tells EHRIntelligence.com. “Without improved EHR usability, the effectiveness of EHRs will be limited.”

EHR usability is front and center of the framework published last month by the American Medical Association (AMA), which recognizes the need for more useable EHR technology as a national imperative.

“Physician experiences documented by the AMA and RAND demonstrate that most electronic health record systems fail to support efficient and effective clinical work,” AMA President-elect Steven J. Stack, MD, said last month. “This has resulted in physicians feeling increasingly demoralized by technology that interferes with their ability to provide first-rate medical care to their patients.”

The framework listed eight EHR usability priorities that require “significant” work by healthcare vendors, clinicians, organizations, patients, researchers, and policymakers:

  • Enhance physicians’ ability to provide high-quality patient care
  • Support team-based care
  • Promote care coordination
  • Offer product modularity and configurability
  • Reduce cognitive workload
  • Promote data liquidity
  • Facilitate digital and mobile patient engagement
  • Expedite user input into product design and post-implementation feedback

That the EHR Incentive Programs are advancing toward their third phase and EHR usability is continuing to lag behind raises questions about the role meaningful use requirements are playing (or not playing) in leading EHR vendors toward developing more user-driven designs for their EHR technology.

Unless the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) are able to address the lack of EHR interoperability and usability, their efforts might just prove to be a hindrance rather than a help

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