In recent weeks, we’ve talked a lot about EMR conversion and creative ways to find staff to complete those projects by the deadline. But what we haven’t mentioned is what is, undoubtedly, the number one question on the minds of many primary care providers and specialists: will our new EMR system be easy to use, and if not, how much time, money and productivity will it cost me?
In fact, fear of poor usability is a huge reason a large number physicians say they have been slow to implement EMR systems. A 2011 HIMSS Task Force Report cites the lack of efficiency and usability of EMRS as the main barrier to adoption.
The Spotlight is on EMR Usability
EMR usability is such a hot-button issue for physicians that The National Institute for Standards and Testing (NIST) held a workshop in 2011 to discuss the topic. The NIST, as well as academic institutions, research and trade groups and vendors continue to look for ways to measure, assess and improve the usability of EHR’s. Furthermore, the government is working to develop standards to measure the effectiveness and usability of digital patient records.
Right now, there are more questions than answers about how to evaluate EMR usability. And that poses another set of problems: physicians only have until 2014 to demonstrate meaningful use of EMR’s or face fines and penalties.
Regional Health IT Extension Centers (REC’s): The Answer to EMR Usability?
Last week, we talked about the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), a federal agency created to coordinate the nationwide conversion to EHRs. The ONC funds 62 REC’s across the country. Right now, those REC’s are helping more than 70,000 mostly primary care physicians with EMR purchase, implementation, project management and other challenges to establishing and becoming meaningful users of certified EHR’s.
To find your nearest REC, visit the ONC website. There, you’ll also find a list of certified EMR products that meet federal guidelines.