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Workflow design integral to EHR development, use

Doctors must turn away from the computer screen and toward workflow design to ensure that EHR systems are worth using and able to meet meaningful use requirements.

To achieve federal meaningful use requirements, electronic health record (EHR) systems must be user-friendly. To reach that goal, doctors must turn their eyes away from the computer screen and toward workflow design.

Designing health information technology is a lot like designing a kitchen, according to Lisa Battle, principal at Design for Context, a Columbia, Md.-based consultancy that advises companies developing IT products. The layout of sink, refrigerator, counters, shelves and stove must support the flow of kitchen tasks. That's the same thinking that should be considered in designing a workflow for EHR development.

Some design can lead to good outcomes, and "some design can lead to bad ones," Battle said.

Workflow was cited as the No. 1 usability "pain point" among providers responding to a survey by the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society. The HIMSS EHR Usability Task Force presented the results of its most recent survey during the HIMSS Virtual Conference & Expo, held June 9 and June 10.

Of the 94 clinical users responding to the online survey, which was conducted last year, 60% said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their EHR systems, but nearly 23% identified 1,237 pain points in using them. Each respondent described examples of where they had experienced problems.

By including people, you tend to create your product champions.

Jasmin Phua, user experience strategist and interaction designer, Design for Context

According to the survey, integration, data integrity and presentation piqued end users most among EHR workflow problem areas. Much evidence pointed to poor workflow design. Respondents cited frustration with clicking through too many screens, navigating confusing pathways and manipulating patient information into the right sections of a record.

To mitigate that impact on providers, vendors should get inside their users' heads. "This means looking at what influences your users," said Jasmin Phua, user experience strategist and interaction designer for Design for Context. "It's important to identify your needs as early as possible."

The majority of respondents to the HIMSS survey -- 65% -- said their needs were taken into consideration for the EHR project, but only 34% said they were "significantly" involved in selecting the product, and 41% of users said they were not involved at all in that decision.

Having users engaged and collaborating in EHR and workflow design from the very beginning is key to a product's success, Phua said. "By including people, you tend to create your product champions."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Jean DerGurahian, News Writer.

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