Finding the Right EHR for Meaningful Use Attestation

March 12, 2015

Your current EHR may not be the best for meaningful use, so you may need a new system. Here's how to re-train your staff and physicians if needed.

Starting with a new EHR system or switching vendors requires hours of training - something many physicians are reluctant to do. However, switching EHRs is sometimes a necessary step to successfully attesting to meaningful use.

Understandably, physicians get frustrated about having to learn a whole new EHR system, so practice managers and administrators have to approach training delicately.

"I think that some physicians have felt over the years that they may not have gotten everything that they needed from their vendor from a partnership standpoint and may not have gotten it in a timely enough manner," said Trenor Williams, managing partner at The Advisory Board's consulting and management division.

Williams added that integrated technology solutions are, "one of the things that clinicians, administrators, and their operators are thinking about and, to me, that's one of the major drivers that we're seeing outside of meaningful use to get physicians to think about changing their electronic health records."

According to a 2014 survey by Medical Economics, 67 percent of physicians are dissatisfied with their EHR's functionality. However, recent research from the American Academy of Family Physicians showed physicians who did switch their EHR vendors were not necessarily happier about their new purchase. Out of 305 physicians who changed EHRs, 43 percent said they were happy with their new software and only 39 percent were pleased with the new system as a whole.

EHR TRAINING 2.0

Whether implementing a new EHR system due to an acquisition or another scenario, according to Bill Fera, principal in the Advisory Health Care practice of Ernst & Young, it's best to tread lightly when training on a new system is required.

"As with any implementation, the approach should be tailored to the persona of the physician," Fera said. "Physicians who had trouble adapting to an EHR the first time around, will probably have trouble again and will probably exhibit a greater level of frustration. They will need more time and attention for training."

Mary Griskewicz, senior director of healthcare information systems for the Health Information and Management Systems Society, said the initial training on an EHR takes about two days. "Then reinforcement of about two weeks to three weeks of using it over and over again is what is typically needed," Griskewicz said. "Having an expert user on hand is best as well as peer-to-peer training, when possible, to train the staff."

Another factor causing practices to change EHR vendors is the need for enterprise-wide functionality, Fera said.

"Practices who were ahead in selecting EHRs often chose ambulatory-specific products that may not be easily integrated into an enterprise strategy," said Fera. "As the industry emphasizes hand-offs and seamless transitions for patients from one care venue to another in the context of re-emerging risk based payment models, the consistent flow of information through an enterprise related to all aspects of a patient's care become paramount. In these cases, physician practices are often being switched to an enterprise product for ambulatory care."

Griskewicz said some of the resistance to training by physicians is because they don't want to take time away from seeing patients.

"Sometimes what [practices] will do is shut down for a couple of days or do appointments in the mornings and then do training in the afternoons where they'll shadow either with the super user or another physician," she said. "Giving clinicians time to learn the system is really important. There's no way around that."