The Proficient Blog

January 29, 2020

Proficient Health

Why Are EHRs Receiving An "F" for Usability And How Can You Maximize Yours?


As RN Denise Adema states in her letter to the editors at Modern Healthcare, the fact that “electronic health record systems scored in the bottom 9th percentile for technology usability in a recent study” should come as no surprise to anyone in healthcare. We couldn’t agree more, Denise! 

The headline of the article, Denise refers to in her letter says it all Physicians score EHRs an F on usability, study finds. You read that right – An F. 

According to the article, EHR systems score in the bottom 9th percentile of technologies when evaluated for usability, according to a recent study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings. In the study, EHRs earned an average score of 45 on the system usability scale of 0 to 100, based on responses from 870 physicians. 

Like Denise, not a day goes by that we don’t hear from frustrated providers about their EHR system. The thought of having everything in one suite of products may seem appealing to many healthcare system CIOs. But in reality, few EHR systems actually meet the functional requirements and user preferences of today’s physicians, especially when it comes to referral management, transition of care and other provider-to-provider communication. 

According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Ted Melnick, "If an interface isn't designed thoughtfully and carefully for a user's needs, it can add to the cognitive load of completing a task." 

The article quotes a statement from AMA President Dr. Patrice Harris, saying the study suggests that EHRs "as currently designed, implemented and regulated, lack usability as a necessary feature, resulting in EHRs that are extremely hard to use compared to other common technologies.” 

While the Modern Healthcare article and the study itself echo a lot of what we are already hearing when it comes to EHR frustrations, there seems to be a lack of direction or strategy when it comes to solving the problem. 

Healthcare systems and physician practices have invested a lot of money in their EHR systems. And, in spite of their flaws and the frustrations that come with them, these systems have delivered significant benefits in many areas. But everyone needs to understand and acknowledge that EHRs aren’t “the end all be all”. We believe the key to EHR success is optimizing that investment with complementary solutions that optimize on the benefits that EHR systems were truly built to deliver. 

For example, while many EHR systems offer some form of secure messaging functionality, those systems weren’t built with continuum-wide communication in mind. EHR messaging capabilities are typically limited to care providers within the same EHR system. What about the providers outside your EHR system such as private practice physicians with their own practice-based system? 

While communication involving outpatient-based providers may be less than 20% of total message volume, this area actually has the greatest potential to impact patient experience and collaborative patient management. This is particularly true when trying to manage care transitions across the continuum.  Furthermore, by engaging your entire care community, you increase referrals and decrease leakage from your network. To truly have a successful secure messaging strategy, you must include providers and care teams across the entire healthcare continuum, not just with providers within the confines of your hospital walls or EHR system.

EHR systems typically consider the fact that different departments and practices have varied workflows that can utilize different team members at different times of the day depending on the type of message, as well as the availability of personnel.  However, unlike Proficient Connect, they can’t intelligently route messages based on provider workflow, patient location, and patient history. 

EHR systems also don’t give providers the flexibility and control they not only crave, but need to avoid burnout, improve productivity and improve patient care. 

These are just a few things you should consider when evaluating EHR systems and complementary solutions to ensure they meet all of your functional and user requirements. To learn more about how your EHR system could be better optimized for cross-continuum communication and clinical information exchange, schedule a time to speak with our team to help guide you through that process.