NIST provides ease-of-use guidance to EMR software developers
To encourage the widespread adoption of electronic medical records, software developers need to ensure specific applications are user-centered, said Svetlana Lowry, project lead for National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Usability in Health IT research. Lowry and her colleagues recently completed two reports on the topic, which provides guidance to developers of software and computer systems for doctors' offices, clinics and hospitals for the improvement and the ease of use of electronic health records.
The publications were developed as part of a federal effort led by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) “to help providers adopt and use EHRs that can bring about broad quality improvements and cost savings in the health- care system,” she said.
The first report, “NIST Customized Common Industry Format Template for Electronic Health Record Usability Testing (NISTIR 7742),” discusses a standard reporting format adopted and customized for testing EHR systems. The second, “A Guide to the Processes Approach for Improving the Usability of Electronic Health,” provides guidance on employing user-centered-design processes throughout an EHR product life cycle. User-centered design focuses of understanding user needs, designing user interfaces on the basis of known human behavior principles, conducting usability tests, and enhancing designs and features until usability objectives are met, Lowry said.
“Our hope and objectives is to provide the guidance to industry and to software, health IT developers, system architects and executives at companies,” Lowry said. “The guidance focuses on incorporating user center design into their processes and practices.”
Efforts to improve the usability of EHRs are widely recognized as key to achieving widespread adoption, Lowry said. In fact, a recent report prepared by the HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality identified gaps in the processes and practices used by EHR vendors. One key finding from the report showed the lack of standard approaches and formats for testing and reporting usability of EHR products across the industry. As a result, she encourages developers to review the reports prior to beta testing products.
“Usability is extremely important for the end user and needed to encourage widespread adoption of EMR technologies nationwide,” she said.