Ease of use important for long-term EMR growth

While the growth in electronic medical record (EMR) systems is anticipated to rise about 15 percent annually for the next five years, that growth in the long run will depend on the introduction of more user-friendly systems, according to findings from Kalorama Information's latest report.

Usability was cited as a trend to watch in Kalorama's report, and was the subject of a Health Information Technology Policy Committee meeting late last month where complaints arose about EMR systems that required clinicians to re-enter the same information multiple time. Such redundancy often resulted in important information being buried among many routine notes, which led to confusion about the status of ordered tests.

"Usability is a key factor in Meaningful Use because at the end of the day, no one can be satisfied with a system in which the system itself is a contributing factor to an error in patient treatment," Lana Lowry, health IT usability project lead at the National Institute for Standards and Technology, said at that meeting. In the long-run, she added, it will be essential that "meaningful users"--such as physicians, medical technicians, nurses, administrative staff and others--be able to successfully "access, retrieve, process, and act on data easily, without error, and without excessive time burden."

The opportunity for EMR vendors to promote loyalty should lead to greater emphasis on usability improvements near-term, the report finds.

"There haven't been a lot of physician user surveys, but one of the things that's clear from the few association surveys is that there is no significant loyalty right now to any one EMR program," said Kalorama publisher Bruce Carlson in a statement. "That's an opportunity we think won't be missed by the industry in their future versions."

For more details:
- see the Kalorama announcement