HIT usability myths dispelled

The problem of healthcare information technology usability continues to persist, but according to a session given by two informatics professionals at the recent Healthcare and Information Management Systems Society's annual conference in New Orleans, in order to deal with the issue, IT professionals first have to dispel several myths surrounding usability.

Highlighting the struggle some physicians and hospital staff continue to experience with technology adoption, commentary in FierceEMR recently pointed out only 12 percent of physicians have attained Meaningful Use. "Physician practices continue to suffer from usability and financial woes in making the transition. They suffer increased muscle strain when using the tools. Physicians who use EHRs are even perceived by some patients as less capable," as reported in the commentary. 

As described in an article in HealthData Management, durign their session Nancy Staggers, RN, a professor of Informatics at the University of Maryland's School of Nursing, and Lorraine Chapman, Director of Use Experience Research at Macadamian Technologies, presented a list of the top 10 usability myths.

For example, Staggers and Chapman discounted the idea that clinicians are uncomfortable with technology. Actually, clinicians like technology, Chapman said, but they don't like the related processes that hinder their ability to do their jobs. Information systems too often don't comport with the way health care professionals work and think, she said, and more training won't help. "The problem isn't with the user,"  Chapman said, "It's with the technology."

Staggers and Chapman also dispelled the idea that healthcare workers can only function if they have all of their information on one screen. While physicians and other health care workers prefer having information in front of them, a poorly designed system that crams too much information into a single interface will make it too difficult to find the information that's needed. Healthcare workers will have no problems going from screen to screen, said Chapman, if the process is intuitive.

In addition, Chapman rejected the notion that system purchase decisions depend on what system can provide the most in the way of features. Instead, buyers should reject systems that have too many of those bells and whistles, since they probably won't be needed and can end up degrading the product's usability. The list also points out that users are also not going to automatically going to like a feature on their mobile device if they love it on their desktop platform. They use desktops differently than their mobile devices, and software developers should match user needs with the appropriate device.

To learn more:
- read the article in HealthData Management

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