Study: Inadequate testing could lead to poor EHR usability

Lack of adherence to testing standards by electronic health record vendors could result in poor EHR usability, a new study has found.

Researchers from MedStar Health, a non-profit healthcare system, analyzed data from 50 EHR vendors serving the highest number of healthcare providers, mostly hospitals and private practices. The study was meant to determine which vendors had the highest usability test scores, and best adhered to testing requirements put in place by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

The ONC standards require vendors to show they developed their EHR with a user-centered design and conducted formal usability testing. Vendors must meet those requirements before a product can be labeled as a certified EHR.

This lack of adherence to testing standards could result in products with poor usability, which can lead to safety risks and user frustration, the study's authors said.

Results showed that 34% of vendors had not met the ONC certification standard of describing their user-centered design process. Sixty-three percent of the vendors did not used the standard 15 participants when conducting usability tests; only 22% used participants with clinical backgrounds.

“Enforcement of existing standards, specific usability guidelines, and greater scrutiny of vendor [user-centered design] processes may be necessary to achieve the functional and safety goals for the next generation of EHRs," the authors wrote.