Intuitive technology that meets the end-to-end needs of all stakeholders in the physician’s office — from the patient in the waiting room, to the receptionist, to nurses and providers themselves — has been slow to come to fruition. While consumers eagerly anticipate purchasing the seventh generation of the iPhone, patients still need 15 minutes to complete paperwork by hand in many waiting rooms. User experience methodologies are highly utilized and matured in other technologically focused industries such as consumer electronics, aviation and web design, but user experience in health care hasn’t been a primary focus for many vendors until more recently. The health care industry is undergoing a major transformation with an increase in technology usage across the continuum of care in our nation’s health delivery systems.
This increased proliferation of health IT has forced many to take a serious look at the user experience, human/computer interaction and workflow optimization within health care facilities. Electronic health record (EHR) systems provide the foundation for the facilitation and support of clinical workflows at the point of care. On the plus side, EHR systems designed with the user in mind allow providers to easily determine if a patient’s condition is improving or declining, contribute to population health by gathering de-identified data and improve daily workflow between clinical staff to create an optimal patient and user experience. On the flip side, poorly designed technology is often cited as a major contributor to administrative overhead, which physicians struggle to keep up with daily, leaving many frustrated and exacerbating the phenomenon of physician burnout.
Creating an intuitive experience, especially when the foundation of your daily workflow is centered around an outdated system, is not an easy task. That’s why some vendors teach physicians how to code their own EHR software, as it ensures that the technology will know their specialty’s workflow and adapt to a provider’s specific needs as they document. Physicians know physicians better than even the most talented software developer ever could, so why not put them in the driver’s seat?
With the industry’s increased focus on usability, it’s critical that EHR vendors invest in the user experience during the software development life cycle. This is especially vital as it relates to engaging their clinical user base to ensure that the software meets user expectations and evolves with their needs. This will set vendors and their users up to be successful, both in delivering the right features to market at the right time and supporting the most efficient clinical experience at the point of care.
The number of private practices is slowly declining due to many variables, including hospital integration, consolidation and shrinking margins. The new Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) aims to guide the health care community toward better, quality-based care by incentivizing physicians to be reimbursed for the quality of care they’re giving to their patients, versus volume of patients and procedures. Physician performance will be measured and compared to those of their peers across various criteria, and providers may see this as one more hurdle in an already complicated industry. Having a fully integrated EHR system to help manage the clinical, operational and financial components of a practice will allow physicians and their staff to remain in practice, focus on patients, plus improve workflow efficiencies and increase revenue.
Now, more than ever, it’s important for physicians to do their homework when it comes to identifying an EHR system. They must look for tools that will easily interface with others to communicate patient data, while automating administrative tasks and ensuring they’re being reimbursed for care delivered. A key to making this possible and improving physicians’ day-to-day workflow, patient outcomes and happiness is user experience — a concept that seems so simple, yet has taken our industry years to invest in as a key component of the software development life cycle. It will be interesting to watch how user experience trends continue to evolve.
About the author: Mandy Long is the vice president of product management at Modernizing Medicine, a developer of specialty-specific, data-driven and cloud-based HER and practice management systems, plus revenue cycle management services.