There are so many points that you can focus your attention on during an EHR demonstration, but none is more important than functionality and ease of use. Although the extras that are offered can make great show-stoppers in software demonstrations, they won’t guarantee implementation success or EHR adoption in your practice.
So what guarantees EHR success in a medical practice?
Usability. Effectively integrating the EHR into a practice’s workflow is completely dependent upon the usability of the EHR.
How do you measure EHR usability? Here are 5 essential EHR usability elements you should focus on:
1. Mouse clicks. The number of clicks it takes to perform basic workflow functions—such as submitting electronic prescriptions, reviewing basic chart information, or documenting patient exams—is crucial when selecting an EHR system. If the system requires numerous clicks in order to navigate the software and enter clinical information during the patient encounter, then the EHR will significantly decrease physician productivity and workflow, and negatively impact both revenue generation and patient care. It might even derail adoption by your physicians entirely.
2. Workflow compatibility. The workflow of the EHR should match the workflow of your practice. Knowing how, when, where, and by whom information is entered into the EHR is critical and should not only match your current workflow, but also offer enhancements to the process. If the EHR does not provide the flexibility to adapt to your current process, then the EHR may significantly damage the customary workflow of your office.
3. Learning curve/training time. Inquire about the number of training hours included with implementation, and then inquire about the average number of hours necessary in order for a user to become confident using the EHR technology. Make sure to ask references how many hours it took them to become confident with the system. If the EHR vendor or other users quote an excessive number of training hours or your staff has trouble learning the software during a demonstration, the system is most likely not usable and therefore will never be fully integrated into your practice.
4. Seamless interface of software applications. Other applications and office technologies should easily integrate into the EHR and be viewable within the same screen. There should be little to no toggling back and forth between applications—it wastes time and can become cumbersome.
5. Automation. Navigating, entering data, and generating reports in the EHR should be quick and easy. Diagnostic test results and transcriptions should automatically route into each patient’s digital record. Every paper process (or automated process if you currently have an EHR) that exists in your practice should be replaced by a superior automated process that frees up the physicians’ and staff’s time and allows them to focus their attention on patients.
EHR usability is essential to EHR success. Make sure all physicians and medical employees are included in the process—workflow, data functions, and training time vary among the different departments and staff members. Remember, the EHR you purchase should enhance efficiency, workflow, and productivity throughout the practice. If it doesn’t, then it will not deliver all the benefits that “the right” EHR could bring to your practice.