Thursday, May 26, 2011

EHR Usability

I just read this article that talks about usability with EHRs. The writer says that EHR systems are too difficult for non-technical physicians to pick up and use on a daily basis. He claims that a lot of older physicians aren't using EHR systems because they don't know how to use computers well enough. He also claims that the government shouldn't force EHR systems on physicians.

While I agree that usability should be a huge concern for software developers, I think that the writer is a little extreme in thinking that the software is too hard to use. There's isn't much you can do at the software level if your user isn't comfortable with a mouse. At Karos Health, we put a lot of effort in creating easy to use software that would be intuitive for all users, with some good feedback from a lot of people. It's clear that there are plenty of physicians that have no problem with using software

We can't just let doctors do things the "stupid" way just because they don't want to learn something new. If they didn't learn new things we wouldn't have any medical imaging and we'd still be using whiskey as an anesthesia agent. Clearly this isn't the case.

So the question is should we allow physicians do things one way, when there is a better way? Especially if the better solution can reduce serious errors. There are other reasons why some doctors might not want to use EHRs, but should a learning curve be one of them?

I don't think so. I think it's very important for physicians to keep up with the times. Systems like EHRs are allowing physicians to do things that were once very difficult or impossible. They save lots of time and money, which ultimately leads to better service. The cost of an EHR is quickly made up when you consider the money you save by not hiring someone to collate paper charts and dealing with rooms full of paper files. It's also provides more security and helps reduce errors.

I agree with mandating use of EHRs, but I also think that software designers need to think more closely about usability, especially for less technical users.

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