Electronic Health Record Usability: How to Improve UX Problems

Electronic Health Record Usability: How to Improve UX Problems

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are a relatively recent phenomenon. It’s just been over the last decade that hospitals, clinics, and all manner of other healthcare facilities have undergone a massive digitization effort. Now, of course, 96% of healthcare systems use EHRs, but that doesn’t mean the systems are perfect. There are often times serious electronic health record usability issues that do affect doctors and medical staff.  

While some of those electronic health record usability issues can always be chalked up to lack of training and lack of proper implementation, the brutal facts remain. Doctors are often spending as much time with EHR systems as they do with their patients. That means that often-basic user experience (UX) issues are leading to burnout for doctors.  

That trend is unacceptable, and there’s always more that we can do to make the electronic health record usability experience better for doctors and staff. So, let’s first start by understanding what usability is and how following best practices can dramatically improve your results and overall experience.  

What is Electronic Health Record Usability? 

When we talk about electronic health record usability, it’s part of the User Experience (UX). The goal of EHR systems is to offer a solution that helps you achieve your goals. In order to achieve those aims, we often talk about it being efficient, user-friendly, fast, and reliable. Usability issues are often split between two major areas of concern, including basic design or interface issues and data or information processing. That’s also why TempDev’s team of EHR experts is so focused on helping you understand and tap into all the benefits of good, user-friendly EHR systems.  

How Do You Determine How User-Friendly EHRs Are?  

The best way to determine which aspects of an EHR system are not meeting your needs is by using a System Usability Scale (SUS). It’s an easy way to evaluate electronic health record usability. You ask a series of questions, for which users respond with a range of five options, from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. Even though most EHR systems are certified via a formal process, the usability score, as measured by SUS falls below average.  

What Are Electronic Health Record Usability Best Practices?  

Most of the tasks performed in EHRs fall into a few categories, with quite a few subcategories. As you look at the best ways to implement these best practices for your EHR system, you should also consider how you will train staff to increase productivity and satisfaction in the process, while preventing burnout. 

Here are examples of items to consider when evaluating the usability of medications within an EHR.

How to Access Medication and Allergy Lists 

You need to access medication and allergy lists quickly and easily as part of your daily routine. You’re able to learn a great deal about the patient just from looking at the medications they’re taking. Here are just a few best practices.  

  • Allergy list prompt: You should be able to see the list of interactions and allergies related to medications, with color-coding to indicate severity.  
  • Generic and brand names: You need to be able to easily switch between generic and brand name prescription drugs.  
  • Maximum dose icon: The color-coded daily dosage indicator lets you know whether your patient has already reached their max dose. 
  • Medication sorting and filtering: You can easily sort by diagnosis and then adjust the dose. So, you can quickly find a solution without being forced to calculate it all.  
  • Simple, effective formatting: You need to be able to find what you’re looking for quickly and easily.  
  • Minimize clicks: You need to see the patient’s medications and allergies at the same time, with as few clicks as possible.

How to enter an order and process a prescription  

An EHR system should allow a few functional possibilities, which balance out the speed of processing the details for the medications with the realities of a patient’s medical history. Here are best practices that allow you to order and process a prescription.  

  • Quickly reconcile medication lists: Since patients change their medications frequently, doing medication reconciliation quickly is key to successfully managing a patient’s medications.
  • Easily prescribe medications: Focus on how many clicks it takes to e-prescribe and refill medications, including PDMP needs.
  • Dose limit calculations: You need a system that can detect when a dosage limit has been met even across several brand names, dosage levels, and other factors.  
  • Ease in order change: You need to adjust the medication, frequency, dosage, quantity, and other factors related to the patient’s medication.  
  • Medication history: You need to have access to your patient’s complete medication history so you know which ones they’ve tried, dosages, what the results were, and why their medications changed.  
  • Order review: You need to review the order before “sending” it off to the pharmacy. You may need to make minor changes, or you may need to review details with your patient.  
  • Pre-populated prescription fields: With the wealth of data in your EHR, you should have all the details pre-populated for the prescriptions your patient needs.  
  • Search via all names: You need to pull up procedures, medications, and other standard terms and words via multiple spellings.  
  • Visualized renewal due dates: You need to see which medications are nearing their renewal date, so you can address the situation before it becomes critical.  

How to understand and respond to drug alerts 

Alerts are an essential part of any EHR system, but you need some flexibility in how you handle these notifications.  

  • Customizable alerts: You can tell the EHR to stop warning you, so you’ll avoid alert fatigue.  
  • Passive alerts: These passive alerts can appear in the corner of the screen, so they’re not disruptive, but you can still see the information if you need it.  
  • Simple color-coded design: Color coding is an important usability tool. You can easily differentiate the more important alerts by noticing which ones are severe based on the color.  

While alerts and other usability features are important, it’s easy for you to become overwhelmed with so many notifications. Usability must consider which alerts really are the most critical ones.  

How TempDev Can Help You Improve Your Electronic Health Record Usability 

TempDev’s NextGen consultants, developers, and trainers can help you optimize, implement, switch, or even upgrade your EHR system. From dashboards and revenue cycle consulting to automation and workflow redesign, TempDev offers the tools you need to make the most of your NextGen EHR system, with top tips and tricks that will ensure electronic health record usability in the future.  

Contact us here or by calling us at 888.TEMP.DEV to schedule a consultation and find out how we can help you improve the usability and user experience of your NextGen EHR system.