What’s the difference: User Adoption Versus EHR Usability?

Below is my new post in healthsystemcio.com blog is up “User Adoption Versus EMR Usability”ow.ly/770YV comment appreciated.

There is always a great deal of discussion about hospitals controlling costs. Articles on the subject seem to infer that the idea of controlling costs, should one elect to do so, dwell in the rarefied realm of innovation.

Here is a dirty little secret—from the moment your hospital opened its doors the hospital has been controlling costs. It may not have been doing it well, but unless some unknown organization is signing purchase orders and authorizing accounts payable, it is the hospital that is in control of what it spends.

It occurred to me that nobody writes about the need for hospitals to control revenues. When was the last time you saw an article titled “Control Your Revenues?”  Is it because nobody really believes they have any control over revenues?

When I write about controlling revenues, I am not referring to a revenue assurance or ICD-10 project, I am talking about how to make money, not simply collect the money you have already made. In a room of one hundred healthcare managers, for every ninety-nine who know how to control costs only one knows how to control revenues.

The thing with controlling costs and revenues is that control is a two-way street. If revenues go down or costs go up, if you are the person in charge you must take ownership of the revenue loss or the cost increase. Control is all about the resultant direction, up or down, good or bad. We will come back to this point in a minute.

How does this discussion impact IT, and more specifically IT and its role with EHR?  Conventional thinking will lead one to believe that if, at the end of implementation, user acceptance is high, IT will have done its job. Not so fast sparky. User acceptance tends to be a binary measure. User acceptance can be defined as the total user population minus those people who are not using the system.

Total potential EHR users – those not using EHR = user acceptance

As though the potential user population was given a choice! Using the EHR does not imply any degree of liking the EHR, any fondness for the system, or any measure of perceived effectiveness any more than Meaningful Use has anything to do with users. Permit me to repeat that point in that I have yet to read it in any forum—Meaningful Use does not have anything to do with who or how many who’s are using the EHR.

User acceptance and usability are not the same things; they are not even spelled with the same letters. The difference has to do with how we use it because we have toversus we use it because it is usable. Both control costs and revenues, however user acceptance can easily cause costs to increase and revenues to decrease. This is true if the user acceptance causes productivity to crash.

Usability, while not a perfect measure, can be a start in the right direction. If users feel the EHR is highly usable, usability can lead to productivity increases and lower costs.

Here is the summary point of this piece—contrary to popular belief, IT, via EHR, has a direct line of sight to revenues, costs, and productivity. How it chooses to respond to that opportunity is what many people are evaluating.

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