The NIST usability protocol encourages a user-centered approach to developing EHR systems and provides methods to measure and address critical errors in user performance before those systems are deployed in a medical setting.
The protocol is 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.
The NIST document 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 a human perspective (Can the user understand it and easily find needed information?). The interface is then tested by representative user groups performing realistic tasks.
NIST stressed in the document that usability has to be balanced against data security and privacy. In addition to improving usability, the EHR system “should help the user to protect personal or private information belonging to the user or his/her patients”, the document stressed.
“This guidance can be a useful tool for EHR developers to demonstrate that their systems don’t lead to use errors or user errors. 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”, observed NIST researcher Matt Quinn.