The messaging feature: an ode to cognitive design in EHR

 

EHR system messaging

Ideally, an EHR manages any messages sent between the patient and the doctor through patient portals or telephone calls; messages about the care coordination between the provider facility or outside providers; referrals and feedback; incoming lab results through electronic interfaces or through faxes; and a series of tasks and reminders associated with a patient.

We just covered a number of different, yet potentially very important, places for patient information within the EHR system. That’s the boon of having an electronic system – all such interactions are documented and become part of an individual’s health record.

Now, in an earlier blog about cognitive design, we talked about the importance of data presentation within an EHR system and how it directly impacts a provider’s ability to understand the patient care storyline. This becomes particularly important when considering all of the ways an EHR can send and receive messages and document interactions with and about patients… Luckily, this module is aptly named: it’s our messaging feature.

blueEHR has more than 30,000 users across the globe in more than 100 countries. Take it from us: this aspect of the EHR is one of the most heavily used.

In the current crop of EHR systems (where scant respect is given to cognitive design), messages, intra-office chat, tasks, reminders, referrals, lab results and more reside in different areas of the EHR system. These various modules don’t interface well and it’s cumbersome for providers to check so many different areas to get a full picture of the patient record. To me, this seems like a risk that could easily lead to oversight and medical errors.

Ideally, an EHR will employ simplified design based on thorough research.

Take webmail, for example. Design of web-based emails have been subject to severe scrutiny and the latest systems are probably some of the best examples of advanced cognitive designs. Key phrases and labels are highlighted in a way that draws your eye. When you mouse-over certain features, they are designed to change colors, differentiating from surrounding data. Similar design can really assist a provider when navigating electronic health data.

Our particular messaging module includes the following aspects:

  • blueEHR design mimics the user interface of email systems that most users use, significantly reducing (or even eliminating) the learning curve for users.
    • We also are sure to include features like message threads, classic and compact view, layout of message panes, detailed and expanded search features. blueEHR reduces visual noise and only emphasizes certain features when they are moused-over.
  • Even within message threads, a user has the ability to view message counts and message summary in a single view.
  • Messages can be easily converted into task items and will channel to  the task workflow. This is shown to reduce user time.
  • Our inbox is unified, bringing together a number of interaction components:
    • Intra-office messages
    • Task system
    • Direct project messages
    • Referrals
    • Patient Portal messages
    • Laboratory and radiology results.
    • Incoming faxes
  • The messaging feature includes the ability to sort messages into categories and labels.
  • BONUS: We have a messaging module widget available in the ‘patient demographics’ interface. When an authorized user looks up the patient demographics, an additional tab shows all messages related to that specific patient so that the user doesn’t have to specifically open the messaging module.

Ideally, an EHR manages any messages sent between the patient and the doctor through patient portals or telephone calls; messages about the care coordination between the provider facility or outside providers; etc. You got the idea. The messaging module is crucial to efficient EHR function and should be designed to reduce user fatigue and time while enabling providers to see the full picture of patient’s health record and focus more on patient care.

By: Shameem Hameed

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