Building Usable EMRs: What About The Patient?

Posted on November 12, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

I think most of us reading HealthcareScene.com blogs like this one would agree that for EMRs to become more usable, the process of developing them will have to change.  Specifically, everyone seems to agree that if vendors and physicians don’t work together on usability, we’ll end up with with system after system that nobody wants.

But what about patients? Do they have a role in making sure EMRs are usable?  According to Jon Mertz, the answer is a definite yes.  As Mertz sees it, it’s not good enough for vendors and physicians to talk shop to one another — patients will have to be part of the conversation.  I think he makes a lot of sense.

Talking with EMR vendors is a good way for physicians to get more of what they want, but it’s not enough, Mertz argues, I think quite persuasively. It’s also important for physicians to ask patients want to see in an EMR, especially so given that patients will eventually have access to all of that information. “Patients add an essential perspective to how an [EMR] should be used,” Mertz writes. “It is a system to serve them and their care.”

Vendors should also be talking to patients as well as physicians, Mertz suggests. “Even though physicians, clinicians, and administrative personnel are the primary users of an EHR, their solutions benefit patients, too. Information in an EHR will be viewed and carried forward by patients, so they can provide a valuable perspective on usability.”

The final step in this cycle is to develop a patient base which actively uses EMR data and is quite willing to offer feedback on how the process is working. Specifically, they need to be capable of letting hospitals, physicians and other providers know how their access to data is working, especially if the form they’re getting in doesn’t serve their needs.

I really appreciated Mertz’s take on getting patients involved in the EMR usability process. It’s a point that doesn’t get made often enough — and will definitely need to be talked up more in the future. After all, without patients feeling comfortable with their data, the ultimate goals of Meaningful Use aren’t attainable.