Electronic health record systems score in the bottom 9th percentile of technologies when evaluated for usability, according to a recent study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
That's a problem, because physicians who rate their EHR experience poorly are more likely to report symptoms of burnout, study authors wrote.
"If an interface isn't designed thoughtfully and carefully for a user's needs, it can add to the cognitive load of completing a task," said Dr. Ted Melnick, the study's lead author and assistant professor of emergency medicine at Yale School of Medicine. His previous research has looked at developing and testing systems for the emergency department, applying user-centered design principles.
In the study, EHRs earned an average score of 45 on the system usability scale, a standard metric used to measure technology usability on a scale of 0 to 100. The scale, which is already used widely in industries outside of healthcare, asks users to respond to 10 prompts to assess their view of how efficient or complex a system—in this case, EHRs—is to use.
Researchers invited a random sample of 1,250 physicians from the American Medical Association's physician master file to respond to a system usability scale questionnaire on EHRs in late 2017 and early 2018; 870 of whom completed the survey.
When benchmarking EHRs' score of 45 across previous research on other technologies, the researchers found EHRs fell in the bottom 9th percentile—earning a grade of F.
That suggests that EHRs "as currently designed, implemented and regulated, lack usability as a necessary feature, resulting in EHRs that are extremely hard to use compared to other common technologies," AMA President Dr. Patrice Harris said in a statement. The AMA was a collaborator on the study.
Other technologies that EHRs were benchmarked against included Google's search function, which scored a 93, and microwaves, which scored an 87, according to previous research employing the system usability scale. That earned Google searches and microwaves grades of A and B, respectively.