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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 5/12/16

May 12, 2016 Dr. Jayne, News 1 Comment

I spend a lot of time hearing physician complaints about EHR usability. It’s certainly sensitized me to the issue of usability in general.

Let’s face it – there is some pretty poor software out there, in all spaces. There are some websites I visit that just want to make me scream, especially ones that use technology reminiscent of Geocities circa 1990-something. No matter what industry one works in, if you have to use something day-in and day-out that makes your life harder, you’re not going to be happy.

I was grateful today that I only have to renew my state controlled substance number once every couple of years. It’s bad enough that I have to register with both the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and also with my state, but their website put me over the edge.

I knew it was going to be a pain when the login screen told you to make sure you had enough time to finish the renewal because the system might time out on you. Then, it told me to turn off my pop-up blocker, but not until I had been through multiple screens that had to be resubmitted when I arrived at the pop-up step. They also introduced new fields that had to be completed for each practice location — fields detailing the number of hours per week spent in various activities such as patient care, ambulatory administration, inpatient administration, research, etc. Since I work a varied schedule at more than a dozen sites, this meant pulling numbers out of the air to populate more than 72 fields.

Additionally, when you save each location, it fires a popup that tells you that you need to complete the fax number for the location if it has one, despite it not being a required field. That was another 12 clicks and 12 screen refreshes that I didn’t need to do.

The final usability flaw was when I arrived at the credit card payment screen. Although it leaves the card number and CVV fields blank, it pre-populates the expiration date. If you’re like me and either multitasking or simply get distracted, you look back and the expiration field has numbers in it, so you move on. Unfortunately it then pops up that your card is expired, and sends you back three screens for you to re-key the information.

It felt like an exercise in futility, but what’s a girl to do? Complaining to the board that regulates your ability to prescribe certain drugs feels like you’re just asking for an audit. There’s no competition and no choice, so you just have to pay your fee (which feels like a cash grab, since we’re already regulated by the DEA) and be happy about it. Or if not happy, at least resigned.


On the opposite side of the usability chasm, there are plenty of vendors who are actually getting it done. One of the things I enjoy most about HIMSS is checking out emerging solutions and looking at vendors that are trying to break into the market with something novel. It doesn’t always have to be a “gee whiz” product. but it might be just someone who is doing things better or slightly different than the people who are already in the market.

I recently had a chance to look at iScribeHealth and learn about their journey to market. Their mobile app solution is an adjunct for EHR documentation. It allows providers to enter key data elements such as medications, problem list updates, histories, and more without using the EHR. It also supports dictation and charge entry.

They recently took their first batch of clients live. It’s quite different moving from the development phase to the real world and I’ll be interested to see how things go over the coming months. They’ve got some good hooks in their marketing material – encouraging users to “free yourself from late nights spent updating patient charts and wishing you had chosen a different career path.”

They’re also pushing the patient engagement aspect, allowing physicians to focus on the patient at the point of care and not on the technology. They also have automated reminders and surveys to connect with patients outside of the visit. Personally, they had me with their martini glass icon. Who doesn’t like a cosmopolitan in their daily workflow?


Just when you thought you had recovered from HIMSS16, it’s time to start planning your submissions for HIMSS17. The call for proposals opened last week and runs through June 13. They’re also looking for reviewers to take a look at all the content submissions during the summer months. I’ll let you do the math on how many months it is from the time the submissions are due until the actual presentation and determine for yourself whether it’s easy to keep things fresh with that kind of lead time.


I’ve previously been somewhat down on the American Academy of Family Physicians and other organizations for enabling some of the negative forces impacting physicians today. They have posted some introductory modules covering MACRA and the shift to value-based care. I appreciate their taking it down to the basic level that many physicians need to try to understand what’s about to happen to them.

In people news, today the National Institutes of Health announced the appointment of Patricia Flatley Brennan, RN, PhD as the new director of the National Library of Medicine. She has a long history in the informatics community. I find it most interesting that her doctorate is in industrial engineering and she has worked to leverage that knowledge in health care. The best implementation director I ever worked with was a ceramics engineer by training, so I appreciate what that background and mindset can bring to the table.

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Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Funny- I was just groaning about my state DEA registration process, which is:
    -an every 3 year process, out of synch with every-2-year licensing process.
    -relies on mailing a notice to your last business address to initiate the renewal
    -has NO online process. Entirely in paper, with an inked check for payment, and snail mail submission. So, no receipt, etc. for expensing.

    They did reply in both email and snail mail channels, so I could move my re-reg over to the medical staff recordkeeping folks easily.

    Be careful with what you ask for, I suppose– I think I had an easier time, and less frustrating, than you did.

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