AHRQ, vendors seek EHR usability standards, development of best practices

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is calling for the creation of an independent entity to lead development of voluntary EHR usability standards, and apparently has support from some parts of the vendor community.

A report, prepared by James Bell Associates and the Altarum Institute on behalf of AHRQ says that EHR vendors tend to turn to best practices for general software design since there aren't any specific standards for EHR usability. This, according to the report, leads to the need for extensive customization to meet each customer's specific requirements.

"Although vendors described an array of usability engineering processes and the use of end users throughout the product lifecycle, practices such as formal usability testing, the use of user-centered design processes, and specific resource personnel with expertise in usability engineering are not common," the report says, based on interviews with seven ambulatory EHR vendors.

AHRQ makes eight specific recommendations based on the study, including: the development of formal usability testing during the early stages of EHR design and development; setting standards for best practices in EHR customization during implementation; and the collection of feedback from end users throughout the life cycle of each product. The standards would be voluntary and be set by the private sector.

Current EHR certification only addresses functionality, not usability.

To learn more:
- check out this Information Week story
- download the AHRQ report (.pdf)