The authors of this article like to believe that we can remain humanists while transitioning from a paper-native to a digital-native industry. We even believe you can remain a humanist while following regulations and sticking to industry guidelines. Margalit Gur-Arie doesn’t seem to feel that way. We have read her work over the years and established that she takes a staunchly humanistic approach to health IT. But even though she’s a leader in that space, she appears to doubt the contributions that either technology or regulation make to a humane health system.
Gur-Arie’s most recent posting dismisses all the tools that electronic health records throw in the way of the doctor: clinical decision support (now often called evidence-based medicine–were we Gur-Arie, we’d say it’s because who can argue against evidence?), reminders, pull-down menus to provide a limited range of choices, and more.
One immediate response is to suggest that, instead of blaming the tools, one should blame the requirements imposed on clinicians by payers and governments–the “thousands of meaningless regulatory words” as Gur-Arie writes eloquently. But the real answer is that these requirements (well, the ones that were thought through) enhance the health care system, and that the problem with current EHRs is that they just “pass through” the requirements, intensifying the burden placed on doctors, instead of finding true innovations when implementing those requirements.
Last week I was invited to attend the second annual NIST forum for EHR Usability called “A Community-Building Workshop: Measuring, Evaluating and Improving the Usability of Electronic Health Records.” NIST, in collaboration with the ONC, unveiled its initial discussion points for what it might consider as the “Usability Criteria” in the upcoming Meaningful Use Stage 2 regulations. At the event I met with Dr. Melanie Rodney, Distinguished Researcher at Macadamian and a member of the HIMSS Usability task force; I was impressed by the work that she and her firm were doing in EHR usability space. At the NIST forum I was able to spend time with experts in the both the fields of EHRs (like me) as well as in usability and user experience (like Melanie). We learned that the government believes that while usability can be key in increasing product effectiveness, speed, enjoyment, etc., NIST is going to focus on EHR usability for the improvement of patient safety. I asked Melanie and Lorraine Chapman, Director of User Research at Macadmian, to share with us what we in the EHR technical community should do in light of what we learned at the NIST forum last week. Here’s what Melanie and Lorraine said:
While the specifics are still forthcoming, vendors have a window of opportunity today to get ahead of NIST – and ahead of competitors – by proactively addressing meaningful use in advance of the 2013 deadline. Let’s look at what vendors can do, combining the information NIST has given so far with fundamental usability best practices:
Step 1: Set Usability Goals related to Patient Safety
These are specific, measurable goals such as “Our EHR must provide a 99% error-free rate of medication entry”. NIST has given the following examples of use error categories, each of which might be driving 1 or more goals.