EHR: Is There Really A Light At the End of the Tunnel?
Why You Should Fight Your Way Through Implementation
If you’ve ever spoken to someone who’s gone through an unsuccessful EHR implementation, then it can be enough to scare you off the process for good. Systems can crash, expenses spiral out of control, patient care is delayed, training is complicated…the list can go on. As busy as most doctors, clinics and hospitals are, willingly going through such an ordeal can be at the bottom of their list of priorities.
EHR is the future, however. In the years to come, all medical care facilities will be required to make the transition. And the good news? EHR implementation can be a success, sometimes smashingly so. It takes great leadership, solid teamwork, and an excellent consultant or vendor to manage the implementation.
If you’re about to make the leap into implementing EHR in your clinic or facility, then it’s important you stick with it all the way through. Yes, there are going to be challenges. There are going to be setbacks and unexpected expenses and doctors that don’t want to make the transition. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel with EHR; if you stay focused on that, you’ll find the strength to make it to the finish line.
The light at the end of the tunnel for EHR is that it’s going to help save lives. EHR offers plenty of benefits for patients and doctors alike, but the biggest is that the system will reduce medical errors (especially due to transcription), catch conflicting or dangerous procedures and prescriptions, and allow doctors to better coordinate on patient care.
EHR is also going to save your clinic or hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more, over its lifetime.
How? First, EHR makes clinics more efficient. Once you’ve implemented EHR you’ll no longer need a full support staff to deal with fetching and filing medical records. This will reduce what you’re spending on labor. EHR can also completely eliminate transcription and courier costs. Many hospitals have been able to save $120,000 or more annually just with those last two cuts.
EHR also helps increase profits because it makes billing more efficient; some hospitals have seen payments increase 10%-15% after their EHR implementation.
So, what can you do to help make your EHR implementation a success? Here are some ideas from clinics that have already gone through a successful implementation:
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Lead
A successful EHR implementation starts with strong leadership. You can’t be afraid to put your foot down about deadlines and cooperation. Backpedaling, or setting “flexible deadlines”, will only confuse your team about priorities and give them incentive to delay or complain. Stand your ground about the implementation, and when the full implementation will take place.
2. Create Positive Buzz About the Implementation
Unfortunately we hear more about EHR implementation failures than we do about implementation successes. This has given EHR a bad reputation in the medical community. Once you announce plans to implement, there will probably be nay-sayers, doubters, and quite a bit of resistance from doctors and staff.
So what can you do? Counteract all this with positive buzz about the implementation. Post countdown signs for go-live all over your clinic or hospital. Make t-shirts. Creating “training parties”; mix training with food and cake to create a positive experience for everyone.
If you consistently focus on the benefits of EHR with your team then they’re going to view the overall experience as positive. The more education and training they have, they less uncertain (and less apt to complain and resist) they’ll be about the transition.
3. Teach Peer-to-Peer
When it comes to a successful EHR implementation, one of the most important aspects is support and training.
The problem with many “vendor-lead” training sessions is that they’re taught by software engineers or consultants. Many times, this can alienate doctors and hospital staff.
Many hospitals and clinics have successfully used a “top down” approach to training. They’ll have their IT director, or an outside vendor or consultant, come in and train a few key leaders from each specialty. From housekeeping to office staff to doctors, each department would send one or two staff to receive the training.
Once these key staff members were fully trained to use EHR and answer questions, they lead the training groups for their peers. This technique can be successful for a few reasons.
First, many people are more open to learning from their peers than an outsider. So, they’re more apt to show up for training.
Second, when hospital staff lead the training they’re better able to take technical terms and put them into a language their peers can understand. They can see connections between EHR and its practical use in ways that outside consultants often can’t. So, they make training more relevant for the people actually using the system.
EHR doesn’t have to be the frustrating ordeal that many people make it out to be. There’s no doubt that it’s a challenge worth surmounting, and with a bit of creativity and “out of the box” thinking, you can ensure that your doctors and staff are fully on-board with the implementation.