Witnesses at the hearing argued that vendors must consider the fact that consumers have varying degrees of "medical literacy" as they design their EHR systems, taking care to ensure that information is presented in as close to a plain-English format as the healthcare world will abide.
A lack of standardization has also held back EHR adoption, witnesses noted. The lack of uniformly accepted and consistently applied standards has limited the ability of different systems to communicate with one another, and has led to marked variations in the user experience for patients.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Ratwani suggests that the government might have a role to play in ensuring a more consistent, user-friendly design for EHRs. He points out that in other high-risk, highly regulated industries like aviation and defense the user interface is part of the certification process for any new system.
"It's important to recognize that user-centered design is a well-established method for developing effective software systems," he says. "Regulatory bodies in these industries closely inspect usability processes before any technology is implemented. It should be noted that no technology enters the cockpit of an airplane before the usability is inspected and found to meet detailed standards."
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