Fear of losing a competitive edge might be keeping health IT vendors from talking about the usability of their products, but some developers suggest there’s a way around that.
The Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) has published the findings of interviews conducted with electronic health records (EHR) vendors in a report, “.” Eight vendors participated in semistructured interviews with researchers, discussing the ways usability plays a role in the entire development cycle of an EHR, from design to testing, as well as current industry practices for optimizing usability.
As the findings suggest, however, there isn’t much research out there regarding EHRs’ ease of use, or their look and feel. While vendors say that end users are an integral part of their EHR design process, formal standards and best practices that guide usability are lacking.
Part of the problem is vendors’ reluctance to open up. Software developers talk internally with their users about bugs in systems, updates and new features; but they rarely disseminate their best practices across the industry, according to the AHRQ report. “While all were eager to take advantage of any resources commonly applied across the industry, few were comfortable with sharing their internally developed designs or best practices for fear of losing a major component of their product’s competitiveness,” the report stated.
The vendors in the survey suggested the industry create an independent body that would oversee usability issues, and ensure that best practices and information were shared across competitors. The agency agreed. Among its recommendations, ARHQ said, “Simply deeming an EHR usable or not usable does not create or disseminate standards and best practices for design. The market can provide direction, but more must be done to document trends and best practices, create new standards for design, and regulate implementation across the industry.”