Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems need to evolve before they go the way of the Dodo, or in technology terms the Blackberry. EHR vendors need to change their current course to avoid relative obsolescence. I do not believe that EHRs will cease to exist but they need to evolve in order to meet the demands of the end-users that interface with the systems (patients and physicians the two main keys of the equation). They also need to adapt to meet the technological standards of the consumer market.
At the macro level EHRs are truly amazing pieces of software. What they are able to accomplish with regards to medical practice workflows, electronic charting, and compiling reams of data is mind blowing. However, they have little if any focus on the end-user at the micro level.
These systems should be complementary to the physician and intuitive to the patient. I think EHR vendors should stop focusing on the user interface (UI) all together. They should open their Application Programming Interface (APIs) and give highly qualified technology developers and user experience (UX) experts the ability to create engaging platforms that are truly user/patient-centric. Did Apple start building the iPhone by asking how to make a phone call better? No, they asked how do we make the user-experience better, how do we improve the lives of the phone user, how do we wow them and make our product so addictive that it will be ubiquitous within the next 2 years. This is one reason why Apple is so successful.
These are the questions that the EHR vendors are not set up to make. Where as consumer side technology vendors are asking AND answering these questions on a daily basis. If EHR vendors open their APIs to a qualified pool of engineers they can accomplish truly user-centric interfaces that surface the data that is locked in these inflexible system. This will give the end-user access to the important information they are seeking that is currently locked within these rigid legacy systems in a way that makes sense and that they will want to continue to use over and over again.
The web evolves everyday, yet “patient-centric” technologies are still stuck in the Stone Age. Patients and physicians have come to expect fully immersive and elegantly crafted online and mobile interactions that include online banking to social networking and everything in between. But, they are not getting it from the current iteration of EHRs or other Healthcare Technology.
Open APIs will allow independent vendors to pull the important information from the legacy systems and display it in a highly intuitive and engaging way. EHR vendors are not in the patient engagement business; at least they shouldn’t think that they are. They are in the data business, and they should leave user engagement up to the nimble and flexible vendors that have vast experiencing in creating user-centric technologies.
By working in collaboration with qualified technology solution experts EHR vendors can supplement their product offering with truly engaging user interfaces built specifically with the individual user in mind. Rather than just saying the UI is intuitive this method would actually give them the ability to back up their claims. Both EHRs and the Health IT arena could be made stronger through this model by providing a fresh technology perspective with a true focus on the patient, physician, or any other end-user. This will increase adoption, engagement, and improve the level of care. Additionally, it will help to push the initiatives of the HITECH Act forward and keep the EHR systems from ending up repeating the tragic tale of the Blackberry – the Dodo of technology.