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Usability is "the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use" [ISO9241]. Usability represents an important yet often overlooked factor impacting the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health record (EHR) systems. Without usable systems, doctors, medical technicians, nurses, administrative staff, consumers, and other users cannot gain the potential benefits of features and functions of EHR systems.



The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act provides financial incentives and other support to drive the adoption and meaningful use of EHRs. A recent report funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), however, identified key shortcomings among certified EHR vendors in the processes, practices and use of standards and best practices with regard to usability and human factors. Efficient and effective use of EHRs is essential as these systems increasingly become a central tool for patient care.

The NIST health IT Usability initiative is focused on establishing a framework that defines and assesses health IT usability. The goal of the research effort, being conducted in collaboration with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), is to create a detailed specification of an objective, repeatable procedure for measuring and evaluating the usability of health IT systems. The initiative will examine the human factors critical to designing usable EHRs and will guide industry in usability engineering practices.

The research findings will be used to support the development and evaluation methods for these standards.

Comments/questions regarding NIST usability activities can be submitted to (link sends e-mail).


Major Accomplishments

NISTIR 8166): Examining the Copy and Paste Function in the Use of Electronic Health Records (link is external)

New all-stakeholders workshop “The Role of Standards in Preventing & Mitigating Health IT Patient Safety Risks”  will be held on September 7, 2016 at the Red Auditorium, NIST

NIST guideline for standardization is now released:

This is an evidence based follow up to:


Federal Partner Activities:

Created January 27, 2017, Updated February 19, 2021