Is your EHR user friendly? ‘Black Book Rankings survey 2013’ suggests as many as 30% physicians are dissatisfied with basic EHR usability.

Not all EHR vendors build their products with usability in mind. Some EHR vendors have nailed it from the start while others only think about it when their users start complaining. It is crucial to get it right. Reducing the number of clicks, minimizing steps in the administrative workflows and eliminating the number of screens to scroll through are pivotal to improving EHR usability.

Most providers reluctant to rely on the system’s documentation capability instead rely on voice recognition technology to aid them while charting. That is of course only possible if their EHR supports voice recognition technology. This not only eliminates the cost of transcription but also reduces the time required to complete encounter documentation.

Physicians spend nearly $30,000 per year on transcription services (data source: Nuance) but if the voice recognition capabilities of an EHR software are good, this cost can be eliminated altogether. Efficient technology can reduce Accounts Receivable by as much as 30%. However, a voice-driven EHR really saves a lot of time for you and does not require adjusting to a new work routine.

Simplicity is also one vital element to improving usability of an EHR. The most powerful EHRs replicate charting workflows in the software, making it easy for the users to perform their tasks.

Key EHR usability principles:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Naturalness
  3. Consistency
  4. Responsiveness
  5. Effective use of language
  6. Efficient interactions
  7. Effective information presentation
  8. Preservation of context
  9. Minimize cognitive load

How can you improve EHR usability?

You can improve your EHR experience if you keep three things in mind before selecting a health IT vendor:

  1. Mergers or acquisitions in the company
  2. Senior management coordination
  3. Internal staff experiences with the system

You should do your research before going for a demonstration. Talk to your peers and see what problems they face in their EHRs. Make sure your vendor has relevant experience in your specialty and can refer some satisfied clients to you. Prepare a list of questions before the demo. They can include but are not limited to the following:

  1. What is the vendor’s user base?
  2. Is the EHR cloud-based or on-premise?
  3. How frequently is the product updated?

Be sure to pay attention to the way sales/support staff answers your questions which should be a good indicator of how the company will treat you in the future.

Don’t just focus on your vendor’s readiness for Meaningful Use. While it is important, vendor experience counts for much more. You should be looking for an EHR solution that helps you even when the Meaningful Use incentives expire.

It is also important to assign one person as your power EHR user during the implementation process. This person will ask plenty of questions during the implementation and will develop excellent understanding of the system. He/she will be the one addressing future EHR issues for other users of your practice. In addition, make sure you do not opt for a task-track training process as understanding the system is crucial for a satisfying EHR experience.


Healthcare IT evangelist. Regular contributor to CureMD Blog, Insights and Capterra. Tweets @jasonhughes06