Widespread adoption of electronic dental record systems (EDR) has led to many practices achieving the dream of a paperless office. Dental professionals are able to focus more on patient care and spend less time managing computers or chasing paper records. EDR vendors have introduced new features to meet changing legal guidelines and the practices of the health industry.
Yet, a recent study showed that many doctors and clinicians still use workarounds and are not utilizing their electronic health records (EHRs) fully. Lack of usability and bad design can lead to poor implementation of an EHR, thus prompting the use of paper notes or electronic workarounds. Cramming too many features into an application without considering actual usage in a clinical setting hinders doctors instead of helping them.
A well designed EDR system should consider the following aspects:
The time taken to complete a process such as entering patient data or reviewing health charts, is directly related to the number of mouse clicks required. Too many buttons and windows popping up can break the concentration of the user and in some extreme cases, the doctor might give up on the process entirely. Basic workflows should be easily accessible from the homescreen and no action should take more time than if the staff were using paper. It should be easy to navigate between various parts of the application such as clinical notes, charts and the calendar.v
The system should adapt to the current workflow of the practice. It is important to know who will be entering what kind of data into a particular section, so that it can be tailored to the user. An overview of pertinent data should be available at all times. The current standing of patients in the cycle should be visible to any employee so that they are not left waiting in the office. It eliminates a lot of confusion if staff and the doctors can view all upcoming duties in an organized list.
While standard templates can be provided for treatment plans or medical notes, it should be effortless to personalize them and easy to switch between custom notes and standard templates so that no time is lost. The software should also allow smooth integration with other applications, reducing the need to juggle numerous open windows.
Any software application must be designed keeping the user in mind. Badly designed EHRs can lead to doctors and staff going back to paper charts or other workarounds, thus negating the benefits of having a digital system.