By Von Baker, practice director for healthcare services at TEKsystems
With recent federal legislation supporting government investment in healthcare information technology (HIT), many healthcare organizations are looking to adopt electronic health record (EHR) systems to improve healthcare quality, patient safety and efficiency. However, with this rapid push for EHR adoption comes a growing need for HIT professionals with the skill sets to successfully implement EHR systems while meeting legislative criteria.
A recent TEKsystems survey of 300 single and multi-hospital organizations and health professionals conducted with HIMSS Analytics found that less than half (43 percent) of integrated delivery systems or single hospital systems have completed their EHR implementation. The survey explored many of the major concerns around EHR implementation as well as possible solutions. For example, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of healthcare professionals believe that achieving adoption among end users is a major roadblock to a successful EHR implementation, while 66 percent believe that the biggest struggle will be assembling a project team with the right people and skills for a successful implementation. Seventy-one percent of survey respondents also indicate that they expect end users to spend up to an additional 30 minutes reviewing each patient’s record and twenty-seven percent expect additional times to be greater than 30 minutes as they adapt to the new EHR system. Respondents also ranked achieving end-user adoption as the greatest challenge post-EHR implementation.
These problems undercut the organizations’ ability to fully realize the benefits of an EHR system that will allow them to increase the quality of care and achieve Meaningful Use mandates within a reasonable budget. According to the survey, just over half (54 percent) believe that they cannot quantify their ROI and expect to operate at a loss or break even. Healthcare organizations can better avoid many of these obstacles and streamline their EHR implementation by following five simple steps:
- Start planning early – Many healthcare organizations don’t realize that providing quality training is an important early step in an EHR implementation project. Seventy-four percent of survey respondents indicated that they did not start training until just one to three months prior to EHR implementation. Early training ensures that end users will be ready to hit the ground running once implementation is complete, maximizing immediate benefits of the new system.
- Involve end users – Engaging end users throughout the implementation process increases their sense of ownership as well as their confidence in the new system post-implementation. By increasing awareness early, end users will have the opportunity to provide valuable feedback during training, leading to a much more successful project.
- Bring in the right resources – While it may be difficult to find an abundance of high quality healthcare IT workers, it is crucial that healthcare organizations take the time to find talented individuals to lead not only the system implementation, but also the clinical training efforts that ultimately determine whether or not an implementation is successful. Settling for a less talented team now will lead to more headaches and setbacks down the road.
- Tailor training to role and workflow – An effective training program needs to be aligned to the end users’ job roles, workflows and technological requirements in order to be successful. Organizations should engage with end users who use the EHR system on a daily basis when developing the training curriculum to make sure that it addresses their biggest needs.
- Continue to support after go-live – With more than 50 percent of survey respondents indicating that end users will need more than six months to adapt to the new system, it is important for organizations to plan for continued support well after implementation to ensure that users are confident in their ability to navigate the new system and to avoid an extended learning period.
Von Baker is the practice director for healthcare services at TEKsystems, a provider of workforce planning, human capital management and IT services to the healthcare industry.