Archive for February, 2012

Successful EHR Implementations Depend Upon Teamwork and Collaboration

February 21, 2012 3 comments

Staff members of  physician practices have varying responses to organizational and process change.  Some will adjust quickly, others will assume a wait and see attitude, and some may passively (or even actively) resist the move to an EHR.  This is why communicating an EHR implementation plan is crucial.  To this point, the staff must also be dynamically involved in the integration so that they feel that they have direct input and will eventually come to actively support it. Therefore, by explaining the new processes and identifying the benefits of these changes, each staff member will gain a sense of ownership in their part of the EHR implementation process.

An EHR adoption, like any other IT integration project, will change the job scope and responsibilities of all staff in the practice.  This may result in some employees becoming territorial or retreating into a mode of pre-EHR activities; ultimately handing off accountability to someone else. In anticipation of this, EHR implementers need to communicate and receive feedback from every impacted staff member, so they understand and take personal possession of any changes in their job scope and responsibilities.

Processes to Facilitate Change

Both clinical and non-clinical staff may become sensitive to change when they do not perceive any personal or professional advantage to making a change.  Physician practices should have an over-arching plan of action to facilitate all aspects of organizational change around EHR adoption:

  • Create process teams
    Create process teams within the staff to define the new workflow processes.  These teams will get the rest of the staff involved and help to educate them as the practice prepares to adopt an EHR. These teams should meet at well-defined intervals on a regular and consistent basis.
  • Communicate the logic for EHR adoption
    Explain all the benefits of EHR adoption, how each member of the staff will benefit, and how the patients will ultimately benefit by improved quality of care.  Be careful to avoid the, “because we said so” or “it’s a government mandate” statements.  While this may be true in some instances, it does dot capture the true spirit of EHR adoption.
  • Define measurable success factors
    Clearly state what the critical success factors are surrounding the new EHR workflows and processes and follow this with a reporting system to evaluate success and improve the processes once the EHR has been fully deployed.
  •  Clearly communicate results
    Establish a communication plan to communicate the definition of success. These communications should happen frequently at pre-defined intervals on a regular basis.  Be certain to include all successes (as well as areas for opportunity) in these communications. Nothing aligns people faster than gaining success, even if they are initially small accomplishments.

Communicate, communicate, communicate…

Always communicate extensively with the staff about which phase of the adoption path the EHR implementation is in.  Also, as the practice gets to actual implementation, the practice should begin thinking about how it plans to communicate this change to the patients.  Within the practice, a well-defined communication plan should be in place that provides a framework for informing, involving, and obtaining buy-in from all participants throughout the duration of the project.  Again, Process Teams or Staff Meetings should occur at clearly defined intervals on a regular basis. When training needs have been assessed, a Training Plan that meets the staff’s needs should be clearly communicated to all members of the practice.

Even after establishing and supporting the various avenues of communication, the practice must continue to reevaluate its current needs.  Add maturity to the communication processes by creating robust training procedures that are standard and repeatable.  This material can then be tailored to meet the specific needs and specialties of the practice as it evolves.

Physician Champions

Finally, physician practices should have clinical leaders or “champions.”  The concept of a physician as champion is important in effectively adopting an EHR.  Having EHR champion(s) who will lead the communication strategy is essential and displays that they believe in the benefits of EHR adoption.

What does it mean to be a physician champion?

  • Lead by example by doing the work and demonstrating to others it can be done
  • Help others move through the cultural change process
  • Share what they learn to professional colleagues
  • Exhibit enthusiasm, patience, and professionalism
  • Communicate a consistent message to all staff; both clinical and non-clinical
  • Speak with an passionate voice about the EHR implementation and what it holds for everyone involved
  • Show commitment: If the physicians are not on-board then the rest of the staff will be hesitant to support it as well

Making a commitment to incorporate teamwork and communication as part of the EHR implementation project is critical to the success of the project; and collaboration, as an integral part of culture change, is an essential part of the EHR implementation plan.  While nothing can guarantee success, lack of teamwork, collaboration and communication will certainly advance failure.

Change Management Critical to Successful EHR Implementation

February 12, 2012 1 comment


Implementing an EHR is more complex than just replacing the paper chart with an electronic version of it. EHR implementation requires transformational change in the physician practice.  Most people can relate to the fact that change can be difficult; so, as part of the EHR project management planning phase, attention must be given to the culture change necessary for a successful and less stressful EHR transformation and deployment. Managing the cultural change process is critical to the success of implementing an EHR. In fact, implementing an EHR is not all about the system; it is about embracing the change necessary to incorporate the EHR into how the physician practices medicine.


How Do We Manage Change?

Although change is critical, it is also important to manage and prioritize the changes being asked of a clinical practice.  The first step is to define the vision of the project. This should be completed at the time the Project Manager establishes a Project Charter for the EHR implementation.

Communicating vision and goals to involved parties is an important element in managing change. People tend to feel better about change once they gain an understanding of it and have an opportunity to provide input into the change process.  A good time to get input from staff is during the operational redesign process.

For cultural change to be effective, practices should be sensitive to what else is going on in the office and, for that matter, in people’s lives. Knowing as much as one can about physician practices and their staff will assist in mapping out and communicating the best approach for implementation. The introduction of an EHR into a physician practice also creates opportunities for freeing up certain staff resources to do other, more value added tasks.

Knowing the computer skill readiness of the staff and physicians (basic computer skills, understanding of EHR terminology, etc.) is important in planning the implementation. The communication process should include a clear framework for how staff will become proficient with the EHR.


Communication is Important

It is vital that all participants involved with the EHR project sense the support and guidance of their practice leaders. Both physicians and Practice Administrators need to speak in a unified, enthusiastic tone about the project and how it will impact everyone involved. They need to speak and listen directly to all levels of the practice (clinical and administrative).  A confident and convinced team focused on a vision and guided by clearly defined, strategic, measurable goals will drive the successful adoption of the EHR project.

Full encouragement and communication from Practice Administrators/Office Managers is important for both effective implementation as well as sustainable improvement. There should be a plan in place to communicate the specific benefits of the changes to all staff. People need to feel as if they have a personal stake in the success of the EHR project.

Finally, to ensure the acceptance and confidence of all staff involved in bringing changes to reality, it will be important to communicate the way in which the solutions were initially created and planned. If the perception in the practice is that support staff had no input into creating changes that will affect workflow, resistance is more likely to occur. If it is understood, however, that all participants were consulted, acceptance is better guaranteed.

Making a commitment to incorporate cultural change methodologies and practices as part of the EHR implementation project is essential to the overall realization of the project.  Culture change must be an integral part of the EHR implementation project plan; it should not be taken on informally, nor should the need for it be put off or ignored.

%d bloggers like this: