Digital Health Intelligence has completed phase one of the first, national, comparative Clinical Software Usability Survey, cSUS.

During the initial phase, which opened in November 2015 and closed on 31 March, more than 1,300 clinicians from across all parts of the NHS provided detailed usability ratings data on the clinical systems they use most often to care for patients.  

Ratings data has been submitted on 101 clinical systems in use across the UK, covering hospitals, mental health, community services and general practice. The survey has also covered services for which clinical software rarely gets wider attention, such as ambulances and community dentistry.

The data will now be analysed to provide comparisons between different areas of care, different regions of the NHS, and different categories of clinical IT systems. The analysis will also examine how NHS usability scores compare to those in other industries.

Dr Marcus Baw, cSUS project lead, said: "I've been pleased and excited to be part of the team that delivered this survey which, for the first time, has enabled front line clinicians' voices to be heard. I hope it becomes the start of a genuine and open, two-way conversation between users and suppliers, with massive potential benefits to users, suppliers, and patients.”

The pilot project was a joint initiative between the CCIO Network and Digital Health Intelligence. It was designed to explore the potential for collecting and publishing usability ratings data on the clinical systems in use in the NHS.  Subject to the pilot evaluation, the intention is to move to develop an at scale service.

Dr Joe McDonald, chair of the CCIO Network, said: “This marks the beginning of a journey from the currently rather mysterious process of choosing an EPR to what I hope will become a free and open marketplace, where a CIO or CCIO can see the results of large scale surveys and read honest reviews of systems by clinicians.”

He added: “It also represents an opportunity for system suppliers to get important, independent feedback from users; which can only be a good thing. Think off the power of app-store ratings and reviews. The CCIO and CIO networks will be looking closely at the results and planning a bigger and better survey next year.”

The cSUS pilot project was launched at the CCIO Summer School 2015. The initial survey tools were developed and tested in September and October and the pilot launched at the national CCIO Conference in November 2015.

CSIS uses two tools. The first is the generic SuS software usability study, a proven tool used in many industries. The second is the specific cSuS clinical software usability survey, designed specifically for the project.

The two five question survey tools together provide a combined cSUS score, out of a maximum 150. CSUS also asks users to answer “What do you like most about the system?” and “What would you change about the system?”  

With data collection complete, the next phase of the project has begun. This will analyse and begin to publish analysis of the data. The first results will be published in April and May, with the full results presented at the CCIO and Health CIO Summer Schools, 13-14 July.

Baw concluded: “We're now working hard to draw out the insights available from these data and bring them to the health IT community. We're also planning  how we can build on the success of cSUS and create a next-generation 'usability platform' that will allow not only continuous usability review of systems, but may potentially go further in creating an open dialogue between system suppliers, patients, clinician-users, and non-clinical users of systems."