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Using Industry Collaboration for a Better EMR Experience

by Lauren Zack, Director of Usability

In a recent blog post , our VP for User Experience, Mary Kate Foley, kicked off a discussion about the status of UX in health IT as well as the role of UX here at athenahealth. We take usability very seriously and lately we’ve been working with industry thought leaders to move the needle for users of patient-facing tools such as the Continuity of Care Document (CCD).

Earlier in November, fellow UX designer Luis Gutierrez and I attended a cross-industry collaborative EMR workshop hosted by the California HealthCare Foundation and IDEO. With a wide swath of the health IT industry—and not to mention a lot of doctors—neck deep in Meaningful Use, the timing could not have been better for this first-of-its-kind gathering.

This is how Glen Moy, senior program officer at the California Healthcare Foundation, set the stage: “HITECH and Meaningful Use provide a unique opportunity to more fully engage patients in their care through health information technology. The workshop will bring together a select group of health IT leaders to collaboratively begin to make electronic health records more usable for patients and consumers."

We were thrilled to be able to collaborate with designers and colleagues from companies (competitors, really!) such as Epic, Cerner, McKesson, Siemens and others, as well as members of the HIMSS Usability Task Force and the Blue Button project, an initiative we took part in to provide better record portability for veterans.

The goal of the workshop was to “re-imagine” the CCD, so we viewed the document through a patient-centered lens to improve the overall visual, interactive and informational experience. We're trying to make patient health records more accessible to providers, caregivers, and patients themselves.

Guided in various design exercises by IDEO’s project team, ideas were formed for creating interactive, easy-to-use displays of medical information for patients. Ranging from the unconventional to the practical, the ideas served to inspire us to launch from the current standards and also explore interface possibilities. The ideas also exposed the tough questions important to the interconnected health care system of the future:

  • Who owns the data?
  • How can we use technology to get patients more engaged in their own care?
  • How can one’s medical record be a bi-directional, dynamic dialogue between patient and provider while maintaining scientific integrity?

While these questions still linger, this workshop served best as a precedent to industry collaboration with competitors working toward a common goal to tackle hard problems.

By sharing inspiration, acknowledging constraints and even throwing out some wild ideas in an open source workshop, we continue in our mission to help inform and lead the industry. We need to keep improving the usability of products and services in health IT.

Look for more about UX in the coming months. In the meantime, what thoughts can you share about EMR usability? We are always looking for valuable feedback and new ideas.

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