Meaningful Use and Certified EHR’s Impact on EMR User Interfaces

In a previous post, Anthony made this basically off the cuff comment which hit me:
“many a time, the functional requirements take priority over UI”

We see this all over the software development world. In fact, it takes a really unique company to be willing to keep UI over functionality. Ask any salesperson and they’ll tell you that new functions are easier to sell than a great UI. So, it makes sense why this happens. Unfortunate, but makes some sense.

However, this comment also had me asking myself the question, “I wonder how many meaningful use and/or EHR certification requirements caused issues with an EMR UI?

I’ve already had a few EMR demos where I said, what’s that button/function doing there. The response was, oh that was to meet meaningful use/EHR certification requirements. I’m sure many other doctors that use an EMR have seen the same thing. They wonder why an EMR has certain functions since they don’t provide better patient care. Certainly meaningful use and EHR certification is likely to blame for a lot of these possible UI issues. However, I’m sure that many more have to do with EMR software vendors that want to be all things to everyone. When you go down that path, it’s hard to maintain a great UI.

I’ve been starting to think more and more about various EMR UI. Especially with the recent launch of an EMR screenshots website. I’m grateful for the EMR vendors that have been great about sending over their screenshots. It provides an interesting view into the various EMR UI’s. I’m hoping to do some future posts where I take one or more of the screenshots and analyze some of the details. We’ll see how well that goes with an EMR screenshot.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Excellent topic. I agree with you “new functions are easier to sell than a great UI”. The evidence is all around us. Years of function-first decisions create Frankenstein user interfaces.

    Thanks for establishing the EMR Screenshot resource also – I look forward to your analysis of some of these!

  • During the ONC’s Federal Advisory Committee – Meaningful Use Workgroup conference call last week, there was a large discussion about what “usability” is and how usability was often being set to the side by some EHR vendors in the interest of speed of implementation. One need go no further than Wikipedia for a pretty good definition of usability. The participants were talking about establishing some high-level guidelines (possibly NIST) that could be used as a reference to help suggest what is “good” UI. We’ll see what they come up with.

  • Jon,
    It’s funny they didn’t know that NIST already had some high level guidelines. At least I think it was NIST, but it might have been ONC or HHS. I lose track.

    I posted previously about the EMR usability document that was published (sorry I can’t find the post). Excuse the pun, but let’s just say it wasn’t really meaningful.

    NIST is also holding an EHR usability workshop:

    ONC also said at HIMSS that usability would be part of meaningful use:

    We’ll see what government can really do to improve EHR usability. Can you tell I have my doubts?

  • Is this the same government that once thought gold-plated toilet seats were a good idea?

    Oh, how I try hard to stay optimistic! 😉

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