Not every EHR deserves an "F" for usability

Couple of doctors talking and using a tablet computerEHRs have gotten a lot of flak from physicians for disrupting patient care in recent years, from poor navigation on information overload to meaningless data entry creating documentation geared for billing rather than clinical care. However, it’s important to remember that not all systems are created equal — at least in terms of usability.

A recent study posted in Mayo Clinic Proceedings that surveyed close to 900 physicians on electronic health record (EHR) usability revealed alarming findings. Based on a 1 to 100 scale, the average score fell in the ‘not acceptable’ range at 45.9 — leading researchers to conclude that EHRs generally deserved an ‘F’ grade, across the board.

Using their standardized usability scale (SUS) to determine a relationship between poor usability and physician burnout, Mayo also concluded that for every point scored higher on the SUS, the odds of physician burnout dropped by about 3%. It seems clear that improving upon EHR usability can make a positive difference for physician stress levels and satisfaction at work, reducing burnout.

For me personally, having an EHR designed with usability in mind has made a huge impact at Halifax Health Medical Center (a 600-bed facility located in Daytona Beach, FL). I’ve seen first-hand how intuitive navigation and personalization help busy clinicians to practice medicine effectively.

Physicians at my organization have benefited tremendously from incorporating mobile technology into our processes. There is no better way to be efficient and interactive while rounding than by using a hand-held device. We are having more productive conversations with patients, and saving time by placing our orders right at the bedside. Usability means that the EHR conforms to our workflow, not the other way around. 

We’ve also seen how mobile technologies have helped to improve communication and coordination among our care team members. As a result, our ED throughput has increased, while our overall length of stay (LOS) has been reduced by 1/2 a day.

An EHR is only as good as it is useful. When EHR vendors seek honest feedback from clinicians and incorporate these suggestions into their systems, they can meet and even surpass industry expectations. That will lead to happier physicians delivering exceptional patient care.


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Topics: Physician, EHR, Productivity

Written by Ginny Kwong, MD, FAAFP, Vice President and CMIO, Halifax Health

Ginny Kwong, MD, FAAFP is vice president and CMIO for Halifax Health in Daytona Beach, Florida. Dr. Kwong is a recipient of the prestigious American Academy of Family Physician (AAFP) Award for Excellence in Graduate Medical Education. She is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and Diplomat of American Board of Family Medicine. Dr. Kwong completed medical school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Residency at Halifax Health where she was chief resident. She received her BA from Washington University, St. Louis, MO, where she also completed a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Research Fellowship.
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