Here’s a confession — I do have preferred pharmacies. One of the factors is which clinical system is in use: a user-friendly system, or a “fair-weather friend” that supports me only in ideal circumstances. My fellow health care providers know that ideal states and straightforward requests are rare, especially in the current pandemic. Reducing stress factors, including challenging systems, makes a clinician’s day. When I walk into my practice site, I want to know that my clinical system will be reliable.
There are only a handful of different pharmacy management systems (PMS) on the market. This is unlike the electronic medical record (EMR) space, which is constantly evolving. In my work at Infoway on PrescribeIT® (Canada’s national e-prescribing service), I’ve seen many PMS and EMRs in action. I love seeing the different solutions vendors have created for basic clinical functions, like the simple act of sending an e-prescription or e-renewal.
However, this experience also means that I better recognize the variability across systems. Just as I prefer a “user-friendly, intuitive” system, my clinical colleagues desire the same. Many practice at different locations, and they need to feel confident in their expectations of different clinical systems’ functionality. After all, clinicians are “knowledge workers.” The clinical systems that they use should elevate their work, not hinder it — especially in today’s strained health care system.
Based on my experience with various clinical systems, I want to offer some workflow must-haves. These features can help clinicians feel confident that a system considers their workflows, while vendors can use this list to develop more user-friendly systems and increase adoption.
Information comparing for patient safety.
Many clinicians need to compare different pieces of information to maintain patient safety, so it’s essential for the clinician to be able to easily refer to the patient’s record or chart. This allows the clinician to ensure a correct therapy is prescribed, or to avoid ordering duplicate tests. Remember that a side-by-side comparison is always easier to complete, rather than scrolling through screens.
User support for complex functionalities.
If the workflow is multi-step, it’s a good idea to have functionality to support the user, or on-screen guidance that will help support the user through the process. These helpful hints save clinicians plenty of headaches and frees up more time to spend with patients.
Watch your language.
Is the interface language being used in the right clinical context? Phrases such as “ignore” and “accept changes” seem straightforward, but we need to think about how they’re used in clinical functionalities.
If I see “ignore” in my workflow, does it mean no changes, or go to next screen? If I click “accept changes,” can I still add or modify information later? Clinicians use precise language within specific contexts, and clinical systems need to reflect that.
User engagement and feedback.
No one knows the ins and outs of a system like the people who use it every day. Seeking their feedback offers vendors a wealth of information and opportunities to refine their system. Rather than guessing, go straight to the users and ask, does the language make sense? What about the functionality?
For a truly comprehensive view, engage a variety of users: early adopters, technology “timids” and yes, the nay-sayers.
On the PrescribeIT® team, we’re listening to our users and working collaboratively with our vendors to find the best solutions for everyone. e-Prescribing is a culture shift in health care, which requires our systems and workflows to shift as well, in turn benefitting our patients. For that reason, we need to approach implementation with care and a dedication to excellence.
There may be many different clinical systems, but we all have the same goals as health care providers: ensuring patient safety and best outcomes. If we focus on workflow excellence, we can help ensure that clinicians feel confident in their systems — whomever and wherever they serve.
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