What is Usability?

Usability means how useful, usable, and satisfying a system is for the intended users to accomplish goals in the work domain by performing certain sequences of tasks (Zhang & Walji, 2011).

The scientists at the National Center for Cognitive Informatics and Decision Making (NCCD) have given a lot of thought to this definition. Let’s look at those three key concepts - useful, usable, and satisfying - that make up usability for an electronic health record (EHR).

Useful – How well does the system support the work you’re trying to do? A system is useful if it can perform the functions necessary to get the job done. It’s that simple. 

Usable – Is it easy to learn, easy to use, and error-tolerant? You’d expect “usable” to be a part of Usability, right? But in this case, usable is a measurable concept and each of the subcomponents can be measured precisely:

  • Learnability – can a new user learn the system quickly and easily?
  • Efficiency – how fast can a new user complete a task with the system?
  • Error tolerance – how well does the system help users avoid and recover from errors?

Satisfying – No, not the satisfaction you get from eating a good meal, but the satisfaction of a job well done. This is a subjective feeling, admittedly, but very important if an EHR is to succeed in the workplace. Does the user like using the system? Does he or she feel that it’s a useful tool for their daily work? Or do they just dread having to enter data in the EHR? If so, it won’t be a satisfying experience – and no one would say that EHR was usable.

For more information see TURF- Toward a unified framework of EHR usability

Please note:The content provided here are intended as guidelines (recommended, but not mandatory) for design and implementation, not as standards (mandatory, minimum requirements).  SHARPC Logo