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EHR Technical Evaluation Guidance Released

March 26, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has recently released formal protocol procedures for evaluating the usability of EHR systems.  The goal, the agency says, is to encourage a user-centered approach to the development of EHR systems. NIST says the usability protocol will attempt to provide methods to measure and address critical errors in user performance before those systems are deployed in a medical setting.

“This guidance can be a useful tool for EHR developers to demonstrate that their systems don’t lead to use errors or user errors,” NIST researcher Matt Quinn said in a statement. “It will provide a way for developers and evaluators to objectively assess how easy their EHR systems are to learn and operate, while maximizing efficiency.”

The protocol a three-step process consisting of an analysis of how the application functions, expert review, and validation testing of the user interface to make sure it works as intended. It includes general steps and guidance for evaluating an EHR user interface from a clinical perspective—does it contain, collect and display the information it needs to—and human factors perspectives—can the user understand it and easily find needed information. The interface is then tested by representative user groups performing realistic tasks.

The EHR Usability Evaluation Protocol (EUP), Technical Evaluation, Testing and Validation of the Usability of Electronic Health Records (NIST Interagency Report 7804), is available at www.nist.gov/healthcare/usability/index.cfm.

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