New technology offers the promise of boosting efficiency, but your staff holds the key to realizing its full potential. To make sure everyone is up to speed, experts say, make education a required part of the implementation process and an ongoing priority in your practice.
"Education should be mandatory for getting a login to a new system," says Heather Haugen, PhD, CEO and managing director of The Breakaway Group, a healthcare information technology consulting firm based in Greenwood Village, Colo. "Many EHRs are so expensive and complex that you can't take a risk on someone not knowing how to use them."
Communication is critical in the pre-implementation phase, says Mark Kaufman, medical director for U.S. healthcare and healthcare consulting partner with New York-based consulting firm Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). Staff should know why you're making the investment and how a new EHR, practice management system, or other technology tool will impact their day-to-day jobs.
"It's important to set expectations and to explain what the benefits will be to the practice and to them," he says. "If you're switching to a new system, you should make it clear what the issues were with the old system and how this will improve your work flow."
It's also important to customize training for each job description, provide access to ongoing support, and stay alert to potential problems and opportunities to improve efficiency as you move forward.
"You invest a fortune in your EHR, but if you don't pay attention to implementation and training, you will not get a good result," says Kaufman. "There has to be an ongoing plan for how you will improve the use of the system."
Lay the groundwork
To get the most out of training, start by assessing your staff's computer literacy and familiarity with the new technology.
Self-assessment surveys are useful to identify employees that may need additional training to address gaps in their technology skills before learning to use the new system, says Thomas Mason, chief medical officer in HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. You may also want to conduct basic office technology tests to see how well staff are prepared to use different types of systems.