Building clinical care systems that intimately support clinical work has to begin with the acknowledgement that clinicians perform many tasks within the context of a patient encounter, and those tasks very in type, number, and sequence. Everyone knows this. So, one might ask, if this is common knowledge, why are there so many problems with EHR usability? The answer is very simple. EHR systems are designed to be one-size-fits-all.
One-size-fits-all (OSFA) is such a fundamental precept of EHR design that no one even questions it. Instead, there is a pursuit of every possible means of fixing EHR systems, while allowing them to remain OSFA. Why? Because it is a design assumption carried over from past software design/development limitations. Achieving the highest possible level of usability requires dumping deeply-ingrained OSFA thinking.
How did OSFA become so entrenched in EHR designs? Here are the main reasons.
Poor choice of design metaphor
Paper charts are the inspiration for current EHR systems. Charts are OSFA. No clinician was allowed to customize the chart to fit his/her personal work habits or information needs. Every hospital or practice has strict rules about chart organization and use. There are legal rules that dictate how charts must be stored and what they must contain. There is an entire profession dedicated to charts. Charts are designed to be standardized information repositories; they are not designed to aid in care delivery. Paper charts are a means to an end, and I have never heard anyone gush over how wonderful a paper chart was or how it made their lives so much better. However, since paper charts are (were) a fact of life, one simply adapted to them, like it or not.