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Post-implementation management strategies can ease the adjustment to a new system.
Adopting a new electronic health record (EHR) system doesn’t end with the software implementation. Instead, physicians should be prepared for at least several months of adjusting their day-to-day practices once the software in place.
Although doctors (and their patients) frequently report frustration as everyone adjusts to the new software, physicians can better manage the time immediately following the software upgrade with these key strategies:
It’s important to let people know that there’s an adjustment period, said Scott Jacobs, vice president of community outreach services at The HCI Group, a Jacksonville, Florida, firm providing healthcare IT services. He said physicians should not only tell those in the practice about the upgrade, they should sell their patients and partners on the change, too. “Tell them, ‘We’re increasing our capabilities. Your data is going to be safer now.’ And if you’ve gotten an EHR integrated (with the local hospital), that’s a huge benefit. I’d let them know that you’ll have all their records-everything [that happened at the] hospital you will know about-and vice versa. That’s a big selling point,” he said.
Determine several metrics in advance of the implementation and then measure against them at key intervals, such as 30, 60, 90 and 120 days post-implementation and then again at six months out, Jacobs said. “It gives some positive feedback that this isn’t so painful, that you’re serving your patients better, that your practice is doing better,” he said. Jacobs added that physicians should contractually obligate their EHR vendors to deliver such results, with stipulations for more training or even refunds if the software doesn’t.
Next: Training and tweaks
Physicians should schedule additional training to address questions that arise as they and their staff use the system daily, said Angela Rose, MHA, RHIA, director of health information management (HIM) practice excellence at the American Health Information Management Association. Structure your contract so that the EHR vendor must provide training until staff meets certain competencies, instead of stipulating a certain amount of training hours. Also, aim for one-on-one or small group training where physicians and staff members are more comfortable speaking up and can better get individual attention.
Tech-savvy organizations identify workers with strong technical acumen to be superusers. Rose said superusers serve as resources for others in their offices, helping colleagues navigate new systems to get the maximum value. When Rose worked as director of health information at a physician clinic, she attended a full week of training at the EHR vendor’s headquarters. “When I was done, I understood the system inside and out. Then I could go back and train others,” she said.
Software doesn’t always work perfectly. That’s why physicians should monitor their new EHR and ensure its handling functions and data accurately, Rose said. For example, she recommended fact-checking data to ensure data is entered into the EHR accurately and in the right data fields, starting with daily spot checks and moving to less frequent checks if everything regularly checks out.
Similarly, no EHR delivers every function and feature, but physicians shouldn’t accept an unsatisfactory system, either. So plan to address substandard performance in those first few months after the initial implementation, Rose said. “You might be able to make some adjustments. You can ask vendor to see if they can make it happen or find a work-around,” she said.