The importance of usability in our healthcare system

Electronic health record (EHR) systems offer helpful functions for independent physicians, including the ability to manage patient visit notes and coordinate with other providers. However, the tool has to be usable if it is to serve its intended purpose and be valuable to those physicians.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed a standard definition of usability as “the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which specified users achieve specified goals in particular environments.” In other words, the tool must be effective in achieving the physician’s goals in using it, be an efficient way to achieve those goals, and provide the physician with the satisfaction that it has served its function in reaching those specific goals.

Why is usability important? At the recent Electronic Health Records Association (EHRA) Usability Summit, it was pointed out that usability does not just affect the physician in an independent practice. Often, a medical assistant or billing staff member will also use the EHR to add or manage patient information. Patient and physician use of the communication feature also requires usability on the patient’s end. All of these individuals must be able to use the system effectively for the process to flow seamlessly.

Usability is also an issue where the security of patient data is concerned. When data is shared among multiple physicians, laboratories, and healthcare facilities, each of those providers must be able to use the tool appropriately to prevent a breach of confidentiality. The need for increased security levels becomes a greater concern as the use of technology increases.

The importance of usability is reflected in the need to provide quality care efficiently and effectively using such advanced tools as EHRs. Elation’s philosophy is focused on building a technology platform that doctors and patients use because they want to use it. The usability of the Elation EHR system builds trust, improves the quality of care, and enables the independent physician to be more productive and effective.