Thursday, April 28, 2011

Medical Scribes – A new Rx for the EMR?

Recently an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer reported physicians are hiring medical scribes to follow them and input data (chart) in the new electronic medical record. “The new record-keeping systems, which are touted as a way to improve efficiency and quality, slow down emergency medicine physicians so much that the doctors are hiring young people like Fera to input data for them.” While the article suggested that the new scribes created a great job for aspiring medical students- for those of us who work with usability and safety in electronic records this comes as a sad commentary.
While we certainly don’t want to put people out of work- hiring a scribe to be a physician proxy in entering vital patient information forces a bigger question- “Why can’t the physician chart in the new EMR? “. The answer may lie within the ability of EMR vendors to construct software that is “usable”. While the word usable seems simple and a “no-brainer” EHR usability is not a simple concept. Usability refers to how useful, usable, and satisfying a system is for the users to accomplish goals in the work domain by performing certain sequences of tasks. Clearly if the physician can’t use the EHR in their work flow in the Emergency Room without also needing a medical scribe – it is missing the mark on usability. A system is usable if it is easy to learn, easy to use, and error-resistant. As healthcare costs increase – and EMRs are a large purchase for a hospital- shouldn’t EMRs be usable without having to hire additional clinical support personnel? A worthy goal for us all.

What are your thoughts? Let me hear from you.

Jiajie Zhang, PhD
SHARPC Principal Investigator and NCCD Co-Director

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Jiajie Zhang, PhD, PI and Co-Director of the National Center for Cognitive Informatics and Decision Making in Healthcare, has recently been featured in Healthcare IT News about electronic health record (EHR) usability. Click on the following links to read more about EHR usability.

Usability is key for EHR adoption

Seven questions with Jiajie Zhang