RegisterPatient Guest Post by Katie Matlack
I cover medical software and health IT for Software Advice, so I was curious to learn about some of the secrets to success when switching to an EMR. To find out what is it that separates the health care providers who truly reap the benefits of switching to EMR from those who don’t, I interviewed representatives of three health providers who use EMRs now:
- Ian Kornbluth, the owner of two private practices in New Jersey
- Hal Daugherty, the practice administrator at a five-physician cardiology practice in Alabama
- Jeanette Christopher, Amanda Trujillo and Samantha Walker, the team behind the EMR transition of a 26-physician group in Oregon.
Below are four pieces of advice from my conversation with them. For more tips, you can head over to the original article on the Software Advice blog.
1. Ask Your Doctors for Their Opinions
Ensuring that your doctors are fully involved in–and consulted on–the transition to EMR can be a key to a successful switch. To do this, be sure to ask your team of physicians for insight on what features they would like to see in the EMR product they’ll use. In the experience of the team at Northwest Primary Care Group in Oregon, getting this insight from the doctors laid the groundwork for a positive transition experience. It established that the doctors were involved in the process and were valued for their input. Also, practically speaking, consulting the doctors ahead of time really helped the team responsible for choosing an EMR to narrow down the options they considered.
2. Get Software for Your Specialty (or Plan for How You’ll Tailor It)
Getting a software product that’s right for your specialty seemed to be a core component of having a successful transition. After all, you should keep in mind that the better the “fit” of the EMR to your practice’s particular needs, the better it can support you in providing care and help you save time. The team at Northwest uses a product that they can quickly adjust themselves, while another health provider I spoke with, Ian Kornbluth, uses a specialty-specific solution and recounted that his transition had been “painless” and straightforward.
3. Get Your Team Comfortable with Computer Hardware
Some doctors who’ll be expected to use an EHR aren’t familiar yet with how to work a computer (if this is surprising to you, remember that working on paper charts can permit doctors to work quite fast). Before you ask your team to capture important data on a computer, make sure they are comfortable doing routine tasks on a computer. One team I spoke with at Northwest Primary Care Group in Oregon said that it gave its doctors the exact computers they’d be using several months ahead of time so that they could practice on the computers at home. Doing so helped the doctors learn the basics of how to open and organize files, join wireless networks, or even know what to do if the battery runs out. This meant that doctors would be comfortable with these tasks and be able to focus on the newness of mainly the EHR–not the hardware, too–once the switch happened.
4. Appoint Decisionmakers For the Process
While getting everyone’s input is key for garnering full support for your transition, it’s equally important to define a clear leader of the process. After you get insight from your entire group, your defined leader will then have the final say. The team at Northwest, whose Medical Director played this role, stressed the importance taking this step and making it absolutely clear who had the final authority on EHR-related decisions. They explained the impact of doing so:
“The doctors knew our Medical Director listened to their input, but also knew that the final decision was up to him, and they defer to him.”
The takeaway? Spell out who has the final say in advance, and you’ll neutralize time-consuming power struggles and hair-splitting debates before they arise.