AMA report: Standardizing EMRs would 'stifle innovation'

The topics of usability of electronic medical records (EMRs)--and their ability to "effectively integrate" with clinical decision-making and work flow--will be on the agenda when the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates meets next month in Chicago. The focus, contained in a trustees report, will be on how these issues have not been adequately addressed so far.

The trustees report addresses a 2009 resolution that called for the AMA to promote the development and universal adoption of a "standardized user interface" for all EMR systems, and to advocate for a federal mandate for interoperability of EMRs as part of its healthcare reform agenda.

However, at the current time, more attention needs to be paid to issues such as usability. The use of a standardized user interface at first glance appeared to be the way to go to lower that risk, but problems exist--in particular, the lack of evidence about what constitutes an "ideal user interface" in multiple healthcare environments.

"At this time, any attempts to standardize products would stifle product innovation," the report said. In a highly competitive marketplace, EMR vendors will be "motivated by their customers" to build new user interface designs and improve their products to provide better solutions over time. "Just as medical practice has evolved, so will the [EMR] marketplace."

The trustees are calling for the delegates to support continued research and physician education on EMR design--specifically concerning those features that "can improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of healthcare."

For more information:
- see the AMA Board of Trustees report (.pdf)
- view the nextgov article