Three HIT Buzzwords for 2015
Interoperability, Usability and HFE

Interoperability and usability have been buzzing out of the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for quite some time and the ONC is on a mission to make Electronic Health Records (EHRs) worthwhile. The ONC released a proposal on January 30, Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap Version 1.0, to improve care delivery and promote healthier lives.

Dr. Rory Jaffe, executive director of CHPSO, co-chaired one of the ONC workgroups that developed interoperability use cases. “A successful learning system relies on an interoperable health IT system where information can be collected, shared, and used to improve health, facilitate research, and inform clinical outcomes,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “This Roadmap explains what we can do over the next three years to get there.”

The ONC’s priority is on interoperability and usability, the latter of which is defined as how effective, efficient and satisfying a system is for the intended users to accomplish goals in the work domain by performing certain sequences of tasks. A 2014 study found that approximately 60% of hospitals had adopted an EHR system. Many of these systems have their shortcomings, especially if the data within them are unable to be shared or used among other providers and patients. Clinicians are burdened with the time spent to input data into the system instead of spending time providing care.

The third buzzword/acronym, HFE (human factor engineering), is an approach that has been applied in other industries, such as in aviation and in home appliance. Experts recognize health IT usability can be improved by incorporating HFE, the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system. The lessons learned from applying human factors and system redesign show that processes can be reinvented to improve health care delivery. Healthcare organizations are complex, error-prone environments, but it is important to differentiate incidents from the people in the organization, and understand how process improvement can improve patient-centered, safe care.

Taken together, interoperability, usability and HFE can make a big impact on the devices and software health care organizations buy and improve the interactions clinicians have with their patients.

CHPSO will be co-sponsoring a Human Factors Engineering Course that will take place in May 2015. A few spaces are still available. More details to come.


Adler-Milstein, J. et al. More than half of US hospitals have at least a basic EHR, but stage 2 criteria remain challenging for most. Health Aff (Millwood). 2014;33(9):1664–71.

Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, 30 Jan. 2015.

Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics in Health Care and Patient Safety, Second Edition. Pascale Carayon. CRC Press 2012.