It’s About Time: Government Workshop Will Address EMR Usability

Posted on May 25, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

As you may know, not long ago I wrote up a rant slamming awkward-to-use EHR interfaces, an article which has drawn plenty of reader debate and discussion.

Today, I learned that the government is paying attention to this issue as well (and not a moment too soon).

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, to its friends and relations) announced that it would be holding a free workshop on EHR usability intended help all sectors of the industry collaborate on the problem. NIST hopes to attract industry players, academics, government officials and healthcare providers to the same table.

The workshop, which will take place on Tuesday, June 7 on NIST’s Gaithersburg, MD headquarters, will focus on four key questions:

  • What facets of usability should be measured?
  • What measurement methods and protocols should be used to do this?
  • What are some of the challenges to rigorous measurement and how can they be addressed?
  • How can measurement results stimulate a market and support improved usability?

Call me a cynic, but I don’t see participants making a lot of progress on these questions in a single day. Heck, you could spend weeks or months on any of these issues and still end up spinning your wheels.

That being said, it’s always good to see the bureaucrats pay attention to an issue like this. Why? Because if bureaucrats have any virtues, one is that when they grab an issue, they tend to stick to it. (I’d rather see CMS dig into this topic, but hey, NIST’s a start.)

With hundreds of EHR vendors competing for mindshare out there, it’s not likely they’ll come together to set usability standards on their own. But if pesky government types — from both the policy and tech sides — decide to dig their teeth into the usability problem, it’s probably a good thing.

I don’t know about you, but I think attending is a great idea. If any of you make it, please feel free to let us know what you learned. It should be an interesting session.