EHRs/EMRs have long been lauded for their potential contributions to legibility, decision support, and clinical research. They hold great promise for reducing medical error. However, until recently, EMR usability obstacles have not been sufficiently addressed. Typical EMR systems are not easy to use. Many physicians run small businesses. Anything that slows them down usually reduces their revenue. As a business proposition, EMRs must become not just comprehensive and accurate, but usable and fast. Lack of workflow management AKA business process management (BPM) capability is a major reason for many EMRs being difficult to use.
EHR workflow management systems are more usable than EHRs without workflow management capability. Consider these usability principles: naturalness, consistency, relevance, supportiveness, and flexibility. EHR WfMSs more naturally match the task structure of a physician’s office through execution of workflow definitions. They more consistently reinforce user expectations. Over time this leads to highly automated and interleaved team behavior. On a screen-by-screen basis, users encounter more relevant data and order entry options. An EHR WfMS tracks pending tasks, which patients are waiting where, how long, for what, and who is responsible and this data can be used to support a continually updated shared mental model among users. Finally, to the degree to which an EHR WfMS is not natural, consistent, relevant, and supportive, the underlying flexibility of the WfMS can be used to mold workflow system behavior until it becomes natural, consistent, relevant, and supportive.