Usability Assessment of Secure Messaging for Clinical Document Sharing between Health Care Providers and PatientsFunding Primary funding was provided by VA HSR&D grant IIR #14–059 (PI: Simon). Dr. Russ was supported in part by a VA HSR&D Research Career Development Award (CDA 11–214). Michelle Jahn was supported in part by the Purdue University Doctoral Fellowship and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (#DGE-1333468).
26 September 2017
02 May 2018
27 June 2018 (online)
Background Web-based patient portals feature secure messaging systems that enable health care providers and patients to communicate information. However, little is known about the usability of these systems for clinical document sharing.
Objective This article evaluates the usability of a secure messaging system for providers and patients in terms of its ability to support sharing of electronic clinical documents.
Methods We conducted usability testing with providers and patients in a human–computer interaction laboratory at a Midwestern U.S. hospital. Providers sent a medication list document to a fictitious patient via secure messaging. Separately, patients retrieved the clinical document from a secure message and returned it to a fictitious provider. We collected use errors, task completion, task time, and satisfaction.
Results Twenty-nine individuals participated: 19 providers (6 physicians, 6 registered nurses, and 7 pharmacists) and 10 patients. Among providers, 11 (58%) attached and sent the clinical document via secure messaging without requiring assistance, in a median (range) of 4.5 (1.8–12.7) minutes. No patients completed tasks without moderator assistance. Patients accessed the secure messaging system within 3.6 (1.2–15.0) minutes; retrieved the clinical document within 0.8 (0.5–5.7) minutes; and sent the attached clinical document in 6.3 (1.5–18.1) minutes. Although median satisfaction ratings were high, with 5.8 for providers and 6.0 for patients (scale, 0–7), we identified 36 different use errors. Physicians and pharmacists requested additional features to support care coordination via health information technology, while nurses requested features to support efficiency for their tasks.
Conclusion This study examined the usability of clinical document sharing, a key feature of many secure messaging systems. Our results highlight similarities and differences between provider and patient end-user groups, which can inform secure messaging design to improve learnability and efficiency. The observations suggest recommendations for improving the technical aspects of secure messaging for clinical document sharing.
Keywordspersonal health records - secure messaging - communication - interfaces and usability - electronic health records and systems
Protection of Human and Animal Subjects
This study was performed in compliance with standards set by the Institutional Review Boards at Indiana University and the VA Research and Development Committee. These organizations reviewed and approved the research methods.
A.R. led the grant writing and study design, with contributions from A.Z., A.L., and S.S. M.J. developed the tasks scenarios with input from coauthors; moderated most usability sessions; conducted the analyses for use errors; and drafted the initial manuscript. B.P. recruited patient participants; assisted with demographic, task completion, and efficiency data analyses; and drafted most figures and tables. H.P. moderated some usability sessions and analyzed the satisfaction data. All authors contributed to and approved the final version of the manuscript.
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