What is driving claims in healthcare about EHR usability?

Over the past several months, healthcare association and industry reports have highlighted the importance of EHR usability to the success of healthcare organizations and providers providing efficient, effective, and safe patient care.

In 2014, the American Medical Association (AMA) released a new framework comprising a multitude of priorities for creating more intuitive (i.e., usable) EHR technology. Shortly thereafter, Frost & Sullivan published a report detailing how limited EHR usability was impacting healthcare CIOs and their organizations. Other research even indicated that an emerging EHR monoculture — that is, the dominance of a single EHR technology — might benefit EHR usability, interoperability, and innovation.micky-tripathi-on-EHRintel

A leading health IT subject-matter expert, however, contends that much of the criticism of a lack of EHR usability could be missing the point.

“I am always very cautious about the whole usability conversation,” says Micky Tripathi, PhD, MPP, President & CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative. “When you look at the vendor market there are thousands of them and even hundreds of the certified EHR vendors, and there is nothing in meaningful use or any government regulation that force them to have their products architected or engineered in a particular way.”

Obviously, regulation requires that certified EHR technology can perform certain functions, but it does not prevent EHR developers from coming up with innovative ways of doing say.

“In a free market essentially with lots of technology options and no barriers to entry, how is it that no one is making usable products and that we could make general statements about every one of those vendors aren’t doing this or that?” he asks.

A better explanation, claims Tripathi, is the fundamental concept of economics — supply and demand. “Technology is always going to reflect the underlying businesses. Maybe I’m too much on the free market side, but the supply side is going to reflect what the demand side is asking for,” he says.

In the context of healthcare, Tripathi calls to mind two forces at work in driving EHR design and usability to this point. The first centers on purchasing power, which in healthcare has historically been controlled by large institutions.

Read the whole EHR Intelligence article here.

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