EMR makers market products by emphasizing usability

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As electronic medical records (EMRs) become more widespread in the nation’s hospitals, a growing number of companies are marketing their health informatics tools by stressing the usability of their products, reports the American Medical News.

Following the implementation of a government initiative promoting the meaningful use of EMRs and electronic health records (EHRs), vendors and federal agencies have focused on pressing issues of technology, paying less attention to the issue of usability.

With strong growth in the EMR/EHR market, however, companies have begun seeking a way to stand out from the increasingly crowded pack. The most successful strategy thus far has been to educate physicians about the ease of use of their array of health informatics tools.

“In the EMR market now, you don’t have a clear leader either in total market share or physician loyalty,” said Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama Information and author of a recent report on this issue. “Given that, there is an opportunity for somebody to really come out with a much better EMR usability to become kind of the golden standard and come close to capturing the market or being the one that physicians are saying, ‘Look, we want to get this system.'”

To help reach this goal, vendors have begun designing their EMR systems to minimize click counts, help reduce the amount of time physicians need to complete a given task. Similarly, they are working to improve screen design elements and create consistency in screen design throughout their programs, making it easier for doctors to understand and use what they see on their computers.

In addition, health informatics companies have departed from the previous tactic of forcing healthcare practices to tailor their habits to EMR system requirements, instead working with professionals to design systems with existing healthcare office procedures in mind.

According to a study conducted in 2010 by Knowledge Networks, 52 percent of specialists and 50 percent of primary care physicians use an EMR system in their clinical practices.