Jacob Reider: Health IT usability still a challenge

Many of the health IT usability challenges "tolerated" by early adopter providers more than 10 years ago remain unresolved, according to Acting National Coordinator for Health IT Jacob Reider. To that end, Reider (pictured), in a new post to the Health IT Buzz blog, says that one of ONC's top priorities going forward will continue to be the optimal design and use of such tools, in particular electronic health records.

"These systems--if well designed--guide users toward more efficient, safer, better care," Reider says. "If poorly designed, the user may be frustrated or confused, and could make errors that result in patient harm."

While Reider says that typically, IT with poor usability fails to succeed because of "traditional market forces," he calls the health IT market a different animal for several reasons. For instance, he says, users of health IT aren't always the ones who actually buy such tools. Additionally, he says, contracts associated with EHRs tend to lock users in, meaning they can't just abandon ship at the first sign of trouble.

"Buying an EHR is more like buying an airplane than a clock radio," Reider says.

What's more, Reider says, local configuration--which is required when using health IT--often can be the downfall of even the best designed systems.

"To the end-user, they have no way of knowing who is responsible [for poor usability]," Reider says.

In a survey of EHR users and other health IT experts published last summer by Black Book Market Research, 88 percent of respondents said lack of focus on usability will drive many EHR companies out of business by 2017.

Meanwhile, a study published last spring by researchers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs concluded that the next generation of EHR systems needs to make more incremental changes and move beyond the concept of serving as computerized paper charts, offering enhanced usability.

To learn more:
- read Reider's post


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