How’s Your EHR User Experience Going?

EHR

User experience design has continued to build momentum across many fields, with health care being one major industry under the spotlight. In health care, the entire experience of a physician using software, such as an electronic health record (EHR) system, that is easy or agreeable to use not only can reduce the headaches of endless paperwork and reporting, but can also help to avoid negative patient clinical outcomes and experiences. 

The increased use of health IT has forced physicians to take a serious look into how user experience can impact human and computer interaction and workflow optimization. I can say, first hand, that the importance of “good” user experience has changed my practice for the better and will continue to as health care evolves. 

The best kind of user experience results from involving the products’ end-user in the development process. EHR vendors that conduct beta programs, on-site practice visits, customer research panels, and other collaborative efforts directly with their clients create a better experience for the physicians and their staff whose efficiency depends on how easy the software is to use during their daily workflow. 

In the age of value-based care, the renewed focus on the patient and the intersection of technology is a major topic. From combating physician burnout, increased patient consultations, cutting costs, and meeting the ever-evolving industry standards, user experience design helps to set the foundation for health care best practices. Good user experience in EHR software is now seen as a best practice,1 and helps differentiate systems that are inherently usable from those that are not. Usability of an EHR system plays an essential role in our daily practice rituals by allowing us to focus on face-to-face interactions with our patients as a key part of relationship building, for retention and referrals, and improving patient clinical outcomes and experiences with our office. 

As a dermatologist, having an EHR system with screens that are well-designed with a clear visual hierarchy and layout enables me to walk in the exam room and already have an idea of the situation. With the critical nature surrounding the work we do as dermatologists and the continued increased regulatory demands, adopting technologies with intelligent and user-friendly designs can have a positive impact on your patients and practice. 

The Patient Experience

User experience design brings value not only to providers, but also to our patients to help improve their clinical outcomes. Therefore, it is important to identify an EHR system that not only can allow you to document efficiently while staying engaged with your patient, but also one that supports, empowers, and engages them. Some EHR vendors perform user research and directly involve patients in the iterative design process to understand their needs. This is not always easy, because the challenge includes designing an experience for a wide range of patients, with varying age and tech savviness, among other factors. 

For example, my practice recently began to integrate more patient-centric platforms such as an electronic kiosk for patient check in. From the moment a patient steps into the office, the kiosk allows them to update their information and sign in on an iPad. This saves my staff time spent on tedious paperwork and helps ensure that our patient’s health and background information is accurate and updated directly into the EHR system. 

There is a big difference between a provider vs patient user, and patient portals especially are increasingly being adopted by practices and should be intuitive to increase adoption rate among patients.
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Giving Value Back to Your Practice 

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, on average, dermatologists can see up to 129 patients per week.2 With that much volume, it is imperative for us to keep things moving throughout all levels of the practice as efficiently as possible. This is where interaction design techniques come into effect. A forcing function is defined as “a constraint where the user is forced to complete a task based on a limited, paired down set of features or controls” according to Experience Dynamics.3 This helps providers have contextual feedback as we tap and swipe our way through an exam. 

Take the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), for example. With the shift to value-based care and MIPS compliance becoming the mainstream reporting requirement, dermatologists need to be able to track not only how they treat their patients but the success of those treatments to reach reimbursement. Working with an EHR system that already has MIPS reporting as well as peer-to-peer comparison tracking will help dermatologists meet requirements and deadlines in the year ahead. Good user experience design allows users to intuitively know how and where to access and navigate MIPS in the EHR system. 

Gone are the days of sifting through paper charts to ensure we have all our “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed. Digital is the new age and a good user experience can help ease the transition for physicians and their staff. 

Positive Outlook 

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Significant research goes into the design of EHR systems including usability testing with actual users to best identify workflow bottlenecks, usability issues, and opportunities for layout improvements to support key tasks. Well-designed health technology tools can help practices reach their bottom line goals and keep patients healthy and engaged. However, this is just the beginning. When looking for an EHR system, ask about the role user experience plays in their product development to understand how the end users, both providers and patients, have contributed to the design. See the Box for questions to consider when selecting an EHR provider.

Dermatologists should consider the needs of not only their practice but also their patients to maintain a successful business. Technology can be a competitive feature that will help set a practice apart from the rest. Using a well-designed EHR system created specifically for your workflow, practice, and specialty will be important for continued success. 

 
abrams

Dr Abrams is in practice with Premier Dermatology in Sarasota, FL.  

Disclosure: Premier Dermatology leverages modmed Dermatology, a suite of dermatology-specific solutions from Modernizing Medicine.

References

1. Usability requirements for the proposed 2015 certification rule meaningful use stage 2: critical conversations about optimal design column. Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society website. http://www.himss.org/usability-requirements-proposed-2015-certification-rule-meaningful-use-stage-2-critical. Published June 2014. Accessed February 19, 2018.

2. Kostecki J. Executive Summary: Dermatology Practice Profile Survey 2009 Report. Schaumburg, IL: American Academy of Dermatology Association. Published October 2009. 

3. 50 reasons prototyping saves you time. Experience Dynamics website. https://www.experiencedynamics.com/blog/category/interaction-design-techniques. Published February 9, 2017. Accessed February 19, 2018.