The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) plans to conduct research on EHR systems to develop procedures for measuring and evaluating their usability.
NIST may also examine relevant instructions, documentation and EHR error messages, the agency said in an announcement in the Feb. 14 Federal Register . EHR vendors can sign up until March 15 to participate in the testing program.
Healthcare providers increasingly rely on EHRs and require more functionality and robust performance from their systems, especially fueled by meaningful use criteria. But providers and health IT researchers have reported uneven usefulness, usability and user satisfaction among EHR systems.
Farzad Mostashari, MD, the national health IT coordinator, has called for a usability framework  developed through an open process with NIST and many individuals and organizations.
NIST may accept inpatient and outpatient EHR systems for its experiments.
“NIST will not accept actual personal health information as part of this project,” the agency said.
NIST anticipates that it will take approximately one year to conduct all necessary research based at its usability laboratory in Gaithersburg, Md. Vendors’ products will not be modified during the research process, the agency assured.
Information acquired during the tests regarding potential usability problems will be reported to the respective manufacturer. Usability testing results for identifiable vendor systems will not be released but may be released as results from unidentified EHR systems in a subsequent NIST report.