This paper describes an approach to the evaluation of health care information technologies based on usability engineering and a methodological framework from the study of medical cognition. The approach involves collection of a rich set of data including video recording of health care workers as they interact with systems, such as computerized patient records and decision support tools. The methodology can be applied in the laboratory setting, typically involving subjects "thinking aloud" as they interact with a system. A similar approach to data collection and analysis can also be extended to study of computer systems in the "live" environment of hospital clinics. Our approach is also influenced from work in the area of cognitive task analysis, which aims to characterize the decision making and reasoning of subjects of varied levels of expertise as they interact with information technology in carrying out representative tasks. The stages involved in conducting cognitively-based usability analyses are detailed and the application of such analysis in the iterative process of system and interface development is discussed.