July 23, 2019

What attributes do clinicians look for in an EHR?

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If the goal is to build an electronic health record that clinicians want to use, what are the attributes that they look for in an EHR?

The following list is based on observations I've had working alongside clinicians over the last decade. I don't have objective data to back up these assumptions, but they are common themes that have emerged.

Please note - the goal here isn't to identify specific features, but high-level attributes common across electronic health record tools. Most of the surveys I've read about what clinicians look for have discussed feature lists. This document is one level more abstract.

1. Useful

If clinicians don't find the EHR tool makes immediate or future work better, there is little desire to adopt it.

If the opposite is true: that the tool is perceived as burdensome and creates additional work without real benefit, they will strongly oppose adoption.

2. Easy to learn

Clinicians are busy, and many dislike training sessions for computers. In a clinician's mind, time spent doing training is time taken away from patient care and the many other obligations they already have.

Training will always be ranked lower in their list of priorities than their other work obligations, and therefore needs to be minimal. Intuitive and easy to learn software is needed.

3. Reliable

A product must regularly work as expected each time it is used. If the product works well some days and poorly other days, this causes frustration.  For instance, this means the EHR tool may need to function in settings of unreliable internet connectivity.

4. Trustworthy

Clinicians must have trust that the data the EHR provides is true. For instance, this means the data is both accurate (the numbers displayed on-screen are true), and that what is shown is up to date. If clinicians believe that new lab results may be available, but delayed in entering the system, they won't trust the EHR.

5. Secure

Clinicians want to know that the tool they are using will protect the patient’s data. This is both out of good intention to respect patient confidentiality, but also because clinicians do not want to get in trouble for using something that violates local data laws, or to experience data loss.

Most important?

In ranking this list, item 1 - useful, stands out far above the other in my mind as the key determining factor.

If the product is useful, clinicians will tolerate lower performance of the other attributes.

So what makes an EHR useful? The next post will look at how EHR usefulness can be divided into immediate and delayed benefits.

By the way: I'm sure there are additional attributes, I'd like to expand this list, please let me know.

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