Health IT usability focus section: Data use and navigation patterns among medical ICU clinicians during electronic chart review

Matthew E. Nolan, Rizwan Siwani, Haytham Helmi, Brian W. Pickering, Pablo Moreno-Franco, Vitaly Herasevich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background A detailed understanding of electronic health record (EHR) workflow patterns and information use is necessary to inform user-centered design of critical care information systems. While developing a longitudinal medical record visualization tool to facilitate electronic chart review (ECR) for medical intensive care unit (MICU) clinicians, we found inadequate research on clinician–EHR interactions. Objective We systematically studied EHR information use and workflow among MICU clinicians to determine the optimal selection and display of core data for a revised EHR interface. Methods We conducted a direct observational study of MICU clinicians performing ECR for unfamiliar patients during their routine daily practice at an academic medical center. Using a customized manual data collection instrument, we unobtrusively recorded the content and sequence of EHR data reviewed by clinicians. Results We performed 32 ECR observations among 24 clinicians. The median (interquartile range [IQR]) chart review duration was 9.2 (7.3–14.7) minutes, with the largest time spent reviewing clinical notes (44.4%), laboratories (13.3%), imaging studies (11.7%), and searching/scrolling (9.4%). Historical vital sign and intake/output data were never viewed in 31% and 59% of observations, respectively. Clinical notes and diagnostic reports were browsed 10 years in time for 60% of ECR sessions. Clinicians viewed a median of 7 clinical notes, 2.5 imaging studies, and 1.5 diagnostic studies, typically referencing a select few subtypes. Clinicians browsed a median (IQR) of 26.5 (22.5–37.25) data screens to complete their ECR, demonstrating high variability in navigation patterns and frequent back-and-forth switching between screens. Nonetheless, 47% of ECRs begin with review of clinical notes, which were also the most common navigation destination. Conclusion Electronic chart review centers around the viewing of clinical notes among MICU clinicians. Convoluted workflows and prolonged searching activities indicate room for system improvement. Using study findings, specific design recommendations to enhance usability for critical care information systems are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1117-1126
Number of pages10
JournalApplied clinical informatics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017


  • Clinical information
  • Data display
  • EHR interface
  • Electronic health records
  • Information seeking behavior
  • Intensive care units

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Information Management


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