Clinician cognitive workload doubled after EHR adoption at 2 clinics

Within six months of implementing a new EHR system at two urgent care clinics, clinicians' cognitive workloads more than doubled, according to a study published in Applied Ergonomics.

A news release on the study said researchers examined two urgent care clinics that are part of the Urbana, Ill.-based Carle Health Systems as they transitioned to new EHR systems.

Here are six key findings:

  1. The increase in cognitive workload lasted for more than 30 months.

  2. After two and a half years, the clinicians' cognitive workload remained very high, and the clinic's staff found the new EHR system more difficult than the previous hybrid system that used paper and computers.

  3. Compared to nurses, clinicians reported greater increases in cognitive workload, including higher mental demands and levels of frustration.

  4. Researchers said the data suggested that a portion of the increased cognitive workload resulted from having to use the new EHR system while they were with patients instead of after.

  5. Minor design flaws like slow computer response times and the nonstandard labeling of tools negatively affected the users' perception of the system's usability.

  6. At 30 months, negative usability ratings started to trend downwards. Researchers said the negative usability ratings may have gone back down to the rate they were before the new EHR was implemented if the study had gone on longer.

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