Practice Management

New SHM research on EMRs calls for ‘more caring, less clicking’


Designing EMRs with clinician needs in mind

Dr. Prasad said he and his coauthors recommend that EMR developers base more of their design on the needs of clinicians.

Currently, EMR interfaces can make important data unavailable, depending on what a clinician is trying to do. As a result, clinicians often need to rely on mental recall of important information as they navigate EMR systems.

These interfaces also typically do not support any level of user customization or process-specific interfaces, meaning every clinician is working with the same interface regardless of the tasks they need to perform or the information they need access to. Allowing for customization or implementing new process- or disease-specific interfaces could help avoid some of the problems caused by one-size-fits-all interfaces, which are not necessarily compatible with every clinician work flow.

EMR interfaces should also be designed, wherever possible, with familiar or standardized formats and the use of color coding and other techniques that can make interfaces easier to navigate quickly. Right now, many EMR systems utilize inconsistent layout design that can be cluttered with irrelevant information, slowing down interface navigation and sometimes requiring backtracking from clinicians.

Ideally, this will improve the speed of information gathering and data review, reducing the amount of time clinicians need to spend working with their EMR.

The white paper also recommends that EMR designers improve alert systems so that they are more actionable and interrupt clinicians less often – and that, when they do, they ensure that clinicians can respond to them. Designers should also reduce hard-stops or in-line alerts that halt clinicians’ work flows and require immediate responses where possible.

Increased EMR support for clinical decision support systems is one of the biggest health care trends expected to be seen throughout this decade. However, many clinicians are disappointed with the lack of flexibility and optimization of the current alerts that CDS provides. Updating and improving these knowledge-based systems will likely become essential for delivering better alerts and improving decision-making and efficiency.

Overall, EMR design should be informed by the needs of the people these products are designed to support, Dr. Prasad said. The people that work with EMRs – especially frontline staff like providers, nurses, and pharmacists that regularly interact with EMRs to provide care – should be involved early on in the EMR design process. Right now, their needs are not reflected in current EMR design. EMR companies, by working with these hospital staff members, could help improve ease of use and, ideally, prevent some of the errors associated with the current implementation of these systems.

“System designers should be able to avoid some of the most common problems of EMRs – and predict potential problems – by consistently soliciting and integrating clinician feedback during the design process and over the lifespan of a product,” Dr. Prasad said.

How EMRs can be improved

Over the past few years, EMRs have become quickly adopted by health care professionals and institutions. However, despite hopes that EMRs could significantly improve record keeping and note-taking, these systems continue to pose serious challenges for the clinicians who use them. Evidence from recent research suggests that these systems are inefficient and may contribute to physician burnout.

As a result, organizations like SHM are looking for ways that these systems can be improved.

“The growth of health IT has led to availability of large amounts of data and opportunities for applications in [artificial intelligence and machine learning,” Dr. Prasad noted. “While this has opened many avenues to help positively impact patient care and outcomes, it also poses multiple challenges like validation, customization, and governance. Hospitalists can partner with other health professions and IT leaders to work toward the common goal of improving the health of the population while also providing a positive experience to the end user.”

Another problem with current EMRs is their lack of flexibility. These systems are often not compatible with mobile devices and certain types of hardware and may be difficult or impossible to customize. They also frequently require unnecessary information during the note-taking process that results in cluttered and difficult-to-scan documentation. Improving EMR flexibility – and inviting clinicians to consult during the design process – could solve many of these problems.

New technological developments may also soon help developers improve their EMRs. In the future, as technology like natural language processing becomes more advanced and more commonly used, they may be able to make EMRs even more efficient and user friendly.


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