Dammit, Jim, I’m a Doctor Not an EHR Software Tester!

Have you seen ONC’s latest challenge? I was all ready to ease into a long Memorial Day weekend when I saw the news, now I’m annoyed. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has identified a problem with end users of EHR software needing to report concerns they observe while using the system. Here’s the actual text:

Stakeholder feedback indicates there is a need for more efficient and user-friendly mechanisms that allow EHR end users to report concerns quickly and easily, with little or no disruption to their workflow. Mechanisms widely available on the market today normally require the end user to either exit the EHR system entirely or leave the current workflow process in order to report the problem. Some EHRs may include a separate error reporting module, but others require the end user to fill out a report through a totally separate mechanism. This workflow disruption is enough of a burden on users that they avoid reporting. Indeed, the greater the workflow interruption the more likely they are to delay rather than report immediately while the experience is fresh and most accurately recalled, or to forego reporting entirely. Clinicians need better reporting mechanisms that are designed to address the end user’s needs and are complementary with the workflow processes and systems they use.

So according to the challenge, ONC’s plan is to get the health IT community to come up with an easier way for clinicians to report problems they see in EHR software. Let me make sure I understand. Currently, the most common complaint I hear from doctors and nurses is that EHR systems force them to spend more time fiddling with a computer and less time with their patients. Now ONC would have those medical professionals adding the role of software tester to their long list of responsibilities? Here’s a better idea: force higher quality in the software. Make that quality part of a continuous certification program. Do away with the concept of self-attestation of any aspect of quality or compliance by vendors – make them prove it objectively. I, for one, want my doctor focused on finding MY problems – not his or her EHR software vendor’s problems.

Of course, here I am spouting about this controversy while I’m using a Star Trek theme the day a new Star Wars film hits the screens. Shame on me!

Happy Memorial Day everybody….


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