Review of health information technology usability study methodologies

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2012 May-Jun;19(3):413-22. doi: 10.1136/amiajnl-2010-000020. Epub 2011 Aug 9.


Usability factors are a major obstacle to health information technology (IT) adoption. The purpose of this paper is to review and categorize health IT usability study methods and to provide practical guidance on health IT usability evaluation. 2025 references were initially retrieved from the Medline database from 2003 to 2009 that evaluated health IT used by clinicians. Titles and abstracts were first reviewed for inclusion. Full-text articles were then examined to identify final eligibility studies. 629 studies were categorized into the five stages of an integrated usability specification and evaluation framework that was based on a usability model and the system development life cycle (SDLC)-associated stages of evaluation. Theoretical and methodological aspects of 319 studies were extracted in greater detail and studies that focused on system validation (SDLC stage 2) were not assessed further. The number of studies by stage was: stage 1, task-based or user-task interaction, n=42; stage 2, system-task interaction, n=310; stage 3, user-task-system interaction, n=69; stage 4, user-task-system-environment interaction, n=54; and stage 5, user-task-system-environment interaction in routine use, n=199. The studies applied a variety of quantitative and qualitative approaches. Methodological issues included lack of theoretical framework/model, lack of details regarding qualitative study approaches, single evaluation focus, environmental factors not evaluated in the early stages, and guideline adherence as the primary outcome for decision support system evaluations. Based on the findings, a three-level stratified view of health IT usability evaluation is proposed and methodological guidance is offered based upon the type of interaction that is of primary interest in the evaluation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Medical Informatics*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Research Design
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical / methods*
  • User-Computer Interface*