At a National Health Policy Conference held the first week in February, David Blumenthal, former national coordinator for health IT, said that before electronic medical records were widely used, there “wasn’t a demand for usability.” “There was no reason for vendors to focus on it because there weren’t enough sales or selectivity on the part of purchasers,” he said.
Perhaps early EMR adopters didn’t get to be selective about the EMR they chose to use, but there has always been a demand—and a need—for easy-to-use EMRs. When it really comes down to it, doctors have no reason to convert to an EMR unless it will improve things for their practice, whether that be efficiency, costs, or something else. Meaningful use incentives are nice, and so is staying up to date in the digital world, but an EMR’s real value comes from its usability factor.
Now that most doctors are using electronic medical records, their demands for usability can no longer be ignored. Around 50 percent of EMR implementations last year weren’t for providers converting to an EMR for the first time, but for those replacing their EMR for the second—or sometimes third—time. Vendors are finally realizing that with the competitive EMR market we’re in now that their clients won’t be loyal to them if their products are still hard to learn and use. As the EMR market shrinks, vendors who don’t create products doctors love using likely won’t survive the purge.
Not all EMRs are in need of massive changes to satisfy client needs, though. ChartLogic, for instance, has maintained a 95% percent retention rate, even during a time when half of doctors are evaluating new EMR solutions. Regardless, increased focus on usability can only mean good things for the healthcare industry.