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Usability of Electronic Medical Records

John B. Smelcer, Hal Miller-Jacobs, and Lyle Kantrovich

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 4, Issue 2, February 2009, pp. 70-84


Health care costs represent a significant percentage of a country's GDP. Implementing electronic medical records (EMR) systems are a popular solution to reducing costs, with the side benefit of providing better care. Unfortunately, 30% of EMR system implementations fail, often because physicians cannot use the EMRs efficiently. User experience problems, based on our experience at several clinics, are wide-spread among EMRs. These include loss of productivity and steep learning curves.

To help usability professionals contribute to the creation of more usable EMRs, we share our insights and experiences. Essential to understanding EMRs is the physician's task flow, which we explain in detail. It is also helpful to understand the different work styles of physicians, variations in the pace of work, the use of nurses, the mode and timing of data entry, and variations in needed functionality. These variances in task flow, work styles, and needed functionality lead us to propose solutions to improve the usability of EMRs focusing on: flexible navigation, personalization and customization, accessing multiple patients, delegation of responsibility among medical personnel, and enabling data variations and visualizations.

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Usability of Electronic Medical Records