5 Reasons We Love Usability Testing - a guest post by Justin Williams

User Experience and Usability Testing have become fashionable lingo in the health IT world, yet EHR software is rife with usability issues; convoluted workflows, poor content, and poor interaction design are common frustrations that plague providers daily. Changing healthcare reimbursement models, Meaningful Use, PQRS, ICD-10... don’t providers have enough concerns without having to worry about their EHR?

How can we do better? By making usability more than a buzzword through creating a product development process centered on user experience design and usability testing. This will yield your organization real benefits and make life better for your providers.

The 5 reasons that we love Usability Testing are evident in the benefits of establishing a long-term usability testing practice:

  1. It is the best way to validate your assumptions and get to design that works (or even delights) your customers.
  2. Predicting which designs will perform well in the field is a fool’s errand, even for veteran designers. Often, something we feel is intuitive falls on its face when we ask people to actually use it. Other times, a dark horse design that didn’t have much enthusiasm from the team ends up being a hit with the users. This is why we are such big fans of Parallel Design; creating 2-5 different design solutions and testing them in parallel with users, and then either picking a winner or merging the concepts into a single design based on the results.

  3. You will learn more about your customers than you ever thought possible.
  4. We all accumulate preconceived notions of how providers use our system; many will be shattered once we actually watch them use it. You’ll walk away with a better understanding how providers get through their day-to-day using your product. You’ll either validate or debunk assumptions. You’ll hear some amazing ideas for improvement since they use the system every day.

  5. It involves and engages your customers like no other activity can.
  6. Providers love being asked their opinion and many will jump at the opportunity to be included in the design process for their EHR. They feel empowered by having influence on where the system is heading. It makes them feel like part of the team. During a recent usability study we had a physician remark, “I really like your process of taking clinician feedback and being completely mindful, this very sound process is going to pay rich dividends.”

  7. You will Save Lots of $$$$.
  8. Paying expensive developers to create the wrong solution is incredibly wasteful. Usability testing with a quick and dirty prototype is an inexpensive way to validate assumptions and figure out what does and does not work before you throw money away building software that no one wants. A better design is easier to use, meaning you’ll reduce phone calls to your support desk. And let’s not forget that ultimately, you will lose your customers if your competitors are providing a better experience.

  9. It is Awesomely Addicting.
  10. Once you’ve started down the path of involving users in your design process, there’s no turning back. You’ll see immediate benefits, learn more about your users than you ever have before, and create better solutions that solve real problems and deliver real value. Your team’s morale will increase, the excitement will be palpable; they’ll feel more confident in their decisions and become comfortable being user advocates. They’ll be creating a better product that helps medical professionals care for their patients… talk about fulfillment!

Editors note: Do not wait until the end of your development cycle to engage with a Usability testing, User eXperience (UX) team. Conducting several, simple and inexpensive formative usability tests while iterating on your design is the best way to ensure that your EHR will be usable, useful and satisfying.

Mr. Williams a Product Manager for a nephrology-focused, web-based electronic health record. A dedicated advocate for better products and product management, he applies his expertise to build simple solutions for nephrologists. www.falconehr.com

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The Usability People
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