Engineering the electronic health record for safety: a multi-level video-based approach to diagnosing and preventing technology-induced error arising from usability problems

Stud Health Technol Inform. 2011;166:197-205.


Electronic health records (EHRs) promise to improve and streamline healthcare through electronic entry and retrieval of patient data. Furthermore, based on a number of studies showing their positive benefits, they promise to reduce medical error and make healthcare safer. However, a growing body of literature has clearly documented that if EHRS are not designed properly and with usability as an important goal in their design, rather than reducing error, EHR deployment has the potential to actually increase medical error. In this paper we describe our approach to engineering (and reengineering) EHRs in order to increase their beneficial potential while at the same time improving their safety. The approach described in this paper involves an integration of the methods of usability analysis with video analysis of end users interacting with EHR systems and extends the evaluation of the usability of EHRs to include the assessment of the impact of these systems on work practices. Using clinical simulations, we analyze human-computer interaction in real healthcare settings (in a portable, low-cost and high fidelity manner) and include both artificial and naturalistic data collection to identify potential usability problems and sources of technology-induced error prior to widespread system release. Two case studies where the methods we have developed and refined have been applied at different levels of user-computer interaction are described.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / organization & administration*
  • Safety Management / organization & administration*
  • Software Design*
  • Software Validation
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Video Recording*