CCHIT EHR Certification Enters EMR Usability World

Posted on October 28, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while. I figured it was finally time that we talked an interesting development in the CCHIT EHR certification: EMR usability testing. They first presented some of the details of this testing during the CCHIT training meeting. However, they also partnered with User Centric to formulate their EHR user testing and EMR and HIPAA has had a nice connection with User Centric for a few months now.

First the good. I’m glad that CCHIT is venturing into the realm of EHR usability testing. I’ve often talked about CCHIT Certification being rather useless since just because a piece of software does a certain function doesn’t mean that it does it well or that the EMR is usable. In fact, some of the most “feature rich” EMR software is completely unusable by the majority of people. Kind of reminds me of the days of terminals. If you knew the key strokes, it was incredibly efficient. However, learning the keystrokes was so much harder than a nice graphical interface which could do the same things. Not a perfect comparison, but interesting to consider.

So, the biggest problem with CCHIT measuring an EMR’s usability is that the EMR usability rating does NOT affect the certification outcome. Also, it appears that it will be up to the EMR vendor whether they want this result published or not. I wonder if we’ll get to a place where a few EMR vendors show their usability rating and others don’t. Those that don’t we’ll have to assume scored poorly? We’ll see how all that plays out.

I admit I haven’t looked over the entire EMR usability rating process. So, I can’t say if the process is complete or effective in and of itself. Although, I do have some confidence in User Centric as a company even if they’re trying to bite off the very difficult task of measuring EMR usability.

It does look like they’ll give the EMR software a usability rating that is not just a pass fail score. A rating is a much better thing when we’re talking about a somewhat abstract concept of software usability.

I’m also concerned about the quality of the jurors that they’ll use to try and measure usability. I’m sure they’re great people with great intentions. Honestly, that’s one of the most redeeming qualities of CCHIT. They have a large base of volunteers that are very well meaning. However, I’m not sure how much confidence I have in their ability to rate a software’s usability. For that matter, I’m not sure how well I’d be able to do it and I think I’m pretty familiar with the subject.

In a related issue, when you look at the way their putting together the score, it seems pretty complicated at first look. Like I said, I don’t know the details of the methodology. However, that’s kind of the point. Even if CCHIT does post an EMR vendor’s usability score, will the listening public (Translation: doctors) be able to quickly and easily understand what that score means? Maybe it’s a simple thing to figure out. We’ll see, but the devils always in the details and if I’m selecting an EMR I want it to be usable. So, I’ll be very interested in an EMR’s usability score.

Those are just a few things I noticed with the new CCHIT EHR Usability additions. Is there some other parts of it I missed? Anything else we should know about it? Will this be a valuable addition to the CCHIT Certification? Will EMR vendors revolt against it?