Identifying and Overcoming Common EHR Usability Challenges

February 23, 2022 | By Wendy Bartlett

Identifying and Overcoming Common EHR Usability Challenges

Electronic health records (EHRs) play a prominent role in the healthcare industry, offering numerous benefits for today’s practices and providers. 

However, the rise of healthcare consumerism and shift to value-based care have completely transformed the way physicians deliver care to their patients. As a result, EHR vendors are now tasked with ensuring their products evolve in ways that help their physician customers better serve their patients—but doing so is easier said than done.

Why? EHR vendors face significant challenges when it comes to the usability of their platforms, especially as modern healthcare consumers’ needs evolve. Maintaining their core system is a job in and of itself, and it can be expensive to enhance EHR platforms with new technology without the right support. 

Let’s talk about some of the key EHR usability challenges and how vendors like you can implement solutions to overcome them.

Potential Consequences of EHR Inefficiencies

Despite EHR vendors’ best efforts, it can be difficult to enhance platforms as quickly as the industry is changing. Although certainly unintentional, EHR inefficiencies have caused some common usability issues that affect providers, practices, and patients alike, such as:

Physician and Practice Staff Burnout

EHRs are supposed to reduce the administrative burden for practice staff and providers; however, poor usability can actually increase manual work and lead to burnout. Physician burnout is already a widespread problem in healthcare, and problems with electronic health records are frequently recognized as a major contributing factor.

Patient Safety Risks Due to Errors

When EHRs aren’t intuitive or user-friendly, the risk of human error increases. For example, a physician may prescribe the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. Research has shown that roughly 40 percent of EHRs have an issue that could potentially lead to patient harm, and 37,365 providers may have used EHRs with potential safety issues.

Lack of Practice Workflow Support

When EHRs have poor usability, there is often a mismatch between the EHR and practice workflows. As such, a practice’s EHR may not be able to streamline or simplify workflows—or may even increase manual work or make processes more complicated.

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4 EHR Usability Issues and How to Overcome Them

While these common usability issues may prove challenging, they’re far from permanent. EHR vendors can take proactive steps to start solving these challenges today:

1. Deciding to Build vs. Partner

In recent years, EHR vendors have increasingly looked to enhance their products with patient engagement features to better align with consumer expectations. However, EHR vendors often struggle with whether to build or partner to upgrade their product offering.

The truth is, building new patient engagement tools takes longer and requires a larger investment to do it yourself. On the other hand, outsourcing to a strategic partner with patient engagement expertise can help EHR vendors offer a superior product at a lower cost and with a faster speed to market. Plus, patient engagement technology partners are likely to make frequent product enhancements at no added cost to EHR vendors.

2. Protecting Patient Safety

Challenges with the usability of electronic health records open the door to a number of potential patient safety concerns due to inaccurate or unclear information. Ben Moscovitch, project director of health IT at Pew Charitable Trusts, recently pointed out that usability flaws, such as unclear medication lists or default drug measurement settings, can contribute to medical errors. For instance, a provider could prescribe the wrong drug or dosage to a patient by accident.

Although poor system usability and ineffective data exchange can introduce patient safety problems, improving data entry, regulatory compliance, and interoperability can help EHR vendors offer products that pose fewer safety concerns.

3. Supporting Interoperability

To further expand on interoperability and the need for seamless data exchange: Duplicate data entry in disparate, disconnected technologies increases manual work for providers and practice staff and increases the risk of human error. This can impede care coordination and data accuracy, ultimately leading to negative health outcomes.

EHR vendors should ensure compliance with CMS’ Promoting Interoperability Program. These programs are designed to promote the use of certified EHRs, with the end goal of improving efficiency, simplifying operations, and achieving positive patient outcomes.

4. Creating Workflow Efficiencies

Many EHRs increase the administrative burden for practice staff and providers. An increased administrative burden and more duplicate, manual work can contribute to increased physician and staff burnout as well as both customer and patient churn.

Vendors should align features and functionalities with practice workflows to better use automation and reduce manual and duplicate work where possible. This way, practices can streamline workflows and create efficiencies with EHRs, enabling the delivery of top-quality patient care without adding to providers’ workloads.

Clearly, it’s essential for EHR vendors to address these problems by optimizing their product to be more user-friendly and better align with the needs of healthcare organizations and their  patients. Download A Guide to Selecting the Right Technology Partner for Your EHR to learn more about enhancing your EHR with a patient engagement partner.

Selecting the right techology partner for your ehr