NIST, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) are collaborating on a multi-year research program aimed at building a principled framework for measuring the usability of health IT systems. The ultimate goal is to discover principles for how EHR systems can be built to prevent critical errors and promote safe, effective and efficient use by all end users (doctors, nurses, administrators, patients, and others).
The research program will proceed on two tracks:
- The human factors "Tasks, Users, and Systems" track will examine key scenarios of use, describe user populations and their characteristics, and identify the key design features of health IT systems that lead to usability successes and failures.
- The "Organizational Usability Processes" track will examine existing usability engineering practices in HIT organizations and compare them to industry standards and best practices. The collaboration also will research existing methodologies for formal usability evaluation to inform our efforts to develop usability assessment procedures.
Based on the research findings, the organizations will support the creation of usability standards in the following stages:
- Short term (2010-2011): Will need manufacturers to submit a report of a summative usability test using a standard industry format (customized for the healthcare context) to show evidence of product usability and the presence of usability engineering processes.
- Medium term (2011-2013): Provide voluntary usability guidelines that manufacturers can use for self-evaluation of their systems, in addition to requiring submission of the usability report.
- Long term (2013 to 2015 and beyond): Adopt specific and measurable usability objectives for health IT and institute a formal testing procedure that involves the application of performance-based pass/fail usability criteria.