Usability THE prime factor in choice of EMR

Dr Alan Brookstone posted an excellent article How Important is EHR Usability today at AmericanEHR partners. Below is the comment I had posted in response that discusses how usability has guided me over the years and why it is now the prime factor when selecting among the large choice of EMR/EHR solutions.


Alan, you certainly are highlighting the single most important factor that differentiates all the EMRs that are available to us. As there are so very many choices that all can handle most of our needs, the usability should be your guide in the final selection. 

I designed my own EMR in 1994 and have been using quite a few different ones since then. We are indeed finally at a point where there are many and perhaps too many options that all have the features that we want. I have shifted what I use in my practice based on the usability. For the last transition, I needed a solution that was form based to help those key staff members who were too valuable to lose from my practice but too resistant to the move to that EMR. By choosing a form based solution, I was able to customize the exam screens to look just like the paper charts that my office was used to. For my staff, this was the key usability issue.

With the new EMR we are moving to over the next 2 months, we have identified new frustrations in usability - seeing prior visits. Yes, form based EMRs are great for data entry but I often need to compare a specific part of today’s visit to findings in a prior visit. All the forms are a few clicks away in order to find the correct date on a spreadsheet type screen, open the prior form and compare. Newer solutions make this a single click away without leaving the current active visit.

Usability is the key distinguishing factor that needs to guide your final choice. Identify what you want to achieve that you are having difficulty achieving with paper charts or your current EMR and find the right EMR for YOUR practice.