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KLAS: Providers need vendors to improve EHR usability, EHR safety

“As suggested by the new 2014 certification standards, vendors should take more responsibility for both the usability and safety of their products. These responsibilities shouldn’t be the sole purview of healthcare organizations and providers like they have been until now.”

So said one health care provider to KLAS in its report, “Acute Care EMR Usability 2013: Beyond Counting Clicks.” The message is clear: EHR users are demanding vendors pay closer attention to EHR safety and EHR usability concerns.

Researchers pitted Allscripts, Cerner, Epic, McKesson’s Paragon, Meditech 6, and Siemens’ Soarian EHRs against each other in a head-to-head competition ranking usability and efficiency of the individual user, and then factored in how each product met organizational needs for quality of care. They looked at specific tasks, such as computerized physician order entry, medication reconciliation and physician documentation of care, and then analyzed the results.

KLAS explored the “proficiency paradox,” which states that it would seem that, the quicker an EHR takes to learn, the more usable it is and therefore effective in raising quality of care and provider efficiency. Yet the longer it takes to learn – and here’s the paradoxical part – the more functionality a physician can get from his EHR.

The real-world results, KLAS found, varied: Although some EHRs take a full month for physicians to learn, some of those EHRs still end up low in usability rankings, while others get high marks. It follows that the lower-usability EHRs, researchers determined, suffered lower  physician adoption rates, too.

The main takeaway seems to be providers aren’t accepting vendor EHR offerings and features and workflows so unquestioningly as they might have in the past: With federal agencies putting pressure on providers for meaningful use attestation, health reform’s accountable care organizations and looming potential EHR safety regulations, providers are demanding their vendors play a more active role in meeting safety and usability benchmarks. It appears they will not leave their vendors off the hook, moving forward, and may weigh these factors more heavily in future EHR vendor selections.

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