A micro-analytic approach to understanding electronic health record navigation paths

Benjamin J. Duncan, David R. Kaufman, Lu Zheng, Adela Grando, Stephanie K. Furniss, Karl A. Poterack, Timothy A. Miksch, Richard A. Helmers, Bradley N. Doebbeling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Clinician task performance is significantly impacted by the navigational efficiency of the system interface. Here we propose and evaluate a navigational complexity framework useful for examining differences in electronic health record (EHR) interface systems and their impact on task performance. The methodological approach includes 1) expert-based methods—specifically, representational analysis (focused on interface elements), keystroke level modeling (KLM), and cognitive walkthrough; and 2) quantitative analysis of interactive behaviors based on video-captured observations. Medication administration record (MAR) tasks completed by nurses during preoperative (PreOp) patient assessment were studied across three Mayo Clinic regional campuses and three different EHR systems. By analyzing the steps executed within the interfaces involved to complete the MAR tasks, we characterized complexities in EHR navigation. These complexities were reflected in time spent on task, click counts, and screen transitions, and were found to potentially influence nurses’ performance. Two of the EHR systems, employing a single screen format, required less time to complete (mean 101.5, range 106–97 s), respectively, compared to one system employing multiple screens (176 s, 73% increase). These complexities surfaced through trade-offs in cognitive processes that could potentially influence nurses’ performance. Factors such as perceptual-motor activity, visual search, and memory load impacted navigational complexity. An implication of this work is that small tractable changes in interface design can substantially improve EHR navigation, overall usability, and workflow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103566
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Clinical workflow
  • Cognitive engineering
  • Cognitive load
  • EHR navigation
  • Interface complexity
  • Usability assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics


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