The Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) defines EHR usability as follows.
“Usability is the effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction with which specific users can achieve a specific set of tasks in a particular environment. In essence, a system with good usability is easy to use and effective. It is intuitive, forgiving of mistakes, and allows one to perform necessary tasks quickly, efficiently and with a minimum of mental effort.”
Simplicity and ease through the user interface, customized template, system integration, click saving features (custom ICD codes, order management, e- faxing, e-texting) helps optimize practice efficiency and reduce overhead costs, making EHR user -friendly and patient-centric.
Cloud-based EHR, have further diminished the security concerns making EHR usability widely prevalent.
EHR is the technological lifeblood of a clinic. Physicians and their staff use EHR to efficiently manage their workflow – right from the moment a patient books an appointment till the close of an encounter and sometimes even after that. EHR acts as a highly interactive Health IT platform where the entire patient-provider-clinicians interactions are streamlined to bring about successful patient care outcomes.
Of course, the use of EHR is completely dependent on the provider’s practice or specialty. A cardiologist will not need the same functionality as a neurologist. It is important to tailor the workflow according to the individual use case basis to derive the most favorable outcome for both – the patient and the provider.
How is EHR Usability beneficial?
EHR’s are the backbone of a physicians practice – presenting and analyzing information in a simplified, meaningful way – relieving the providers of the arduous tasks of data entry and documentation and streamlining their workflows such that the physicians ultimately spend time in what they value most – treating, caring and healing their patients.
When an EHR is fully integrated to include the pharmacy, laboratory, radiology, and numerous specialties, it offers a wide range of usability benefits and creates a comprehensive, holistic approach to patient care and management. Specific features like pop up forms, customizable templates, document scanning, e-prescription, medication tracking – enhances ease, speed, and accuracy, saving on cost and time leading to increased provider productivity.
A recent study showed that administrative costs comprise nearly 25% of hospital spending in the US. In addition to considerable savings on the hours spent within each department manually updating provider information, EHR’s can save time by streamlining processes and avoiding delays in provider outreach due to incorrect fax numbers, missing phone numbers, and incorrect addresses.
Duplicate work generated in the absence of EHR decreases overall productivity and places an excessive burden on providers who repeatedly have to fill out the same information, leading health systems to incur unnecessary costs.
Another important aspect to consider with EHR usability is the analysis of financial status. A fully integrated EHR billing module streamlines the billing process for patients and providers. It also improves the efficiency of front office staff and assists with the reduction of coding errors that can result in payment delays, costing both time and money. Reimbursements can happen at a faster rate, electronically, through the integration of the billing system within EMR solutions used by medical or clinical practice.
Through patient, employer, and referring physician portal, EHR enhances communication between providers, employers, and referring physicians when needed. These portals act as powerful gateways for enhancing provider-patient and sometimes provider-employer relationship.
Integrated E-Prescription features in the EMR provides the clinic the ability to electronically write prescriptions, provide a legible printout to the patient, or order directly to the patient’s pharmacy of choice. Some of the EMR’s provide the opportunity for e-Prescribing of Controlled Substances (EPCS) to prescribe DEA-class drugs electronically.
Some EHR’s cement the patient-provider relationship by providing the ability to send Birthday/ Greetings to patients using their own format phrases and logos. Further, aided by strong, reliable vendor support staff and implementation team, EHR Usability becomes a highly seamless and error-free process.
When tailored to meet the most pressing needs of providers and clinicians, the benefits of EHR Usability far outweigh the cost or time associated with it.
So, what are the complications associated with EHR Usability?
Integrating EHR in a clinic at times can be a cumbersome process, and sometimes it is the difficult-to-read interfaces, confusing displays, and icons that lack consistency, leading the providers to believe that the system does not fully support their workflow.
The purpose of an EHR is also to be an excellent time-management software – creating ease of use, functionalities well-integrated, and catering to provider-specific needs on a use case basis. For example – In a pediatric setting, the EMR interface should have growth charts, if that is missing, then the EMR Usability for a Pediatric practice significantly reduces. So, usability has to be tailored to providers’ needs and specialty.
It is also the regulatory requirement that has made the EHR usability slightly complex. Meaningful Use, MACRA requirements are some of the factors that have added to increased documentation and complexity.
Stack, an emergency-room physician in Lexington, states that “The meaningful use program needs to be more flexible and supportive of innovations, rather than overly prescriptive”. Currently, it mandates more than 120 specific tasks physicians must do—an incredible burden. Yet many of the requirements don’t improve quality of care.”
Some of the “meaningful use” mandates of the HITECH Act, for instance, require inputting massive amounts of data, some of which only the physician can enter. “The mandate is turning MDs into clerks who spend time inputting data, rather than inpatient care,” says Livingston.
What are the features that can reduce concerns associated with EHR Usability?
- Cloud-based architectures that respond to rapidly changing regulatory programs, offer ease of scalability for growth and optimize security.
- Quick, efficient data entry, leading to increased provider efficiency and productivity
- Optimized billing services to reduce accounts receivables along with complete visibility into payments
- Ease of use leading to minimal training and onboarding for staff and physicians
- Simplified template notes and documentation
- Interoperability leading to proper exchange and communication of data between various EHR components
- Intuitive, interactive interface for sending, receiving information.
- Safe, secure and HIPPA Compliant
- Inbuilt features like Speech Recognition, E –Faxing, Texting, and documentation management
EHR with high usability generates quick, easy access to templates, fast documentation, and stability across platforms.
Some of the features that could prove to be a turning point in EHR Usability
- Regulatory Compliance – The grip and dependency on regulatory measures should be reduced so that physicians spend less time documenting unnecessary details and more time with their patients.
- Interactive data visualization to retrieve patient data quickly.
- Voice and gesture-based interfaces interacting with the record. Both, documenting the clinical encounter and ordering should be done by voice command, confirmed by screen touch. The physician should also be able to prescribe by voice command whether it’s a new medication or a programmed reminder for the patient.
- Orders should display both the major risks and costs of the tests or procedures ordered before the order can be confirmed.
- AI algorithms must also be used to scrape from the EHR the information needed to assign acuity scores and suggest diagnoses that accurately reflect the patient’s current state.
- Internet of things (IoT) – It is crucial that the EHR be able to prioritize alerts that address immediate threats to the patient’s health in real-time. Clinical alerts should be presented in an easy-to-read, hard-to-ignore color-coded format.
- Measures to enhance patient safety by adhering to ONC Safety Guides. ONC has updated the best practices and included feedback from healthcare providers and EHR developers.
PrognoCIS EHR is an All In One EHR tailored to the specific needs of providers with the aim of delivering the best patient experience.
EHR Usability and it’s Future
EHRs are like data centers, massive storehouses of powerful data, both structured and unstructured. EHR helps physicians to generate data that can be utilized through Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Analysis for various medical and clinical outcomes.
Healthcare experts have also endorsed three areas that will play a crucial role in EHR Usability in the coming years – automation analytics, genomics-informed medicine, and next-generation analytics. Collecting information about how providers are using automation in the care and administrative processes will help reduce costs and increase provider efficiency. It can prevent providers from being overloaded with work that could be better managed by staff.
EHR also offers great insights into the consumer diagnostics arena – allowing a patient to reliably test for conditions at home and transmit the results of those tests back to their providers for diagnosis or treatment.
Telemedicine is another growing area that will affect how EHRs are viewed and used. Delivering care virtually allows healthcare organizations to tailor workflows and provide care at a much lower cost while maintaining efficiency and improving outcomes. The ability to maintain a personal connection with a provider through video and other technologies has proven to benefit overall patient experience and treatment.
It is the current and the future benefits of EHR that holds promise for meeting the unique needs of each provider in accomplishing favorable patient outcome and in providing quality care.