Three years ago, Houston Methodist’s eight hospitals and thousands of physicians took on the task of replacing their existing clinical systems with an integrated EHR.
Along with challenges of managing several locations, multiple staff roles and responsibilities, and coordinating with a large IT team, leadership at the health system was charged with the dual goal of getting the new system unveiled while also maintaining legacy systems to keep healthcare operations going.
At this year’s Health Information and Management Systems Society conference (HIMSS17) in Orlando, Florida, Penny L. Black, Houston Methodist’s IT director of clinical systems, and Alan Perkins, a principal at consulting firm The Chartis Group who assisted in the transition will detail how the large health system made it through the transition. Their session, “Managing a Legacy Team in an EHR Transition,” is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Physicians Practice recently spoke to Black and Perkins about their experience at Houston Methodist and the keys to success that might assist smaller healthcare entities in taking on a similar project.
Q. Houston Methodist is clearly a large health system. What can smaller medical practices learn from your experience?
Penny L Black: We counted on leadership to utilize open communication and transparency. We utilized good project management and change management — these two things are key. And, if you can, partner with consulting firms that share your goals and values. I think all of these concepts apply, no matter the size of the organization.
Employees function well in situations with familiar cultural values, so when you bring on partners that share those values, then the relationship tends to just flourish and you don’t have to deal with potential conflicts that might normally arise such situations.
Alan Perkins: Communication really is key because it enhances transparency and trust. This is a principle that applies not just to the IT staff, who may be responsible for developing and deploying the software, but also the practice staff who will be using the software. So it’s important to develop a communication plan and standard communication mechanisms — employee meetings, newsletters, special events, etc. It’s important that all of these communication venues emphasize, “We are all in this together,” and emphasize the inclusiveness, not only of the entire IT team, but also the inclusiveness of the entire project team and the people utilizing the system.
In all these communications, it’s important to underscore the significance of everyone’s role in the effort. This isn’t an IT initiative, it’s an enterprise initiative and we all need to work together to make it successful in order to realize the value an EHR provides in achieving the strategic business imperatives. I think the way in which you communicate that, done consistently with the organization’s values, done in a transparent and consistent way, will strongly enhance the success of the transformational effort, whether [it's at] a large organization or a small organization.