Implementing an electronic health record system is difficult. The drain on productivity alone can drastically change the way a practice operates. Factor in the resistance of many physicians and staff, and getting your new EHR up and running can be a daunting task. However, it’s possible to change the perspective of both physicians and staff by applying the right forms of communication. Here are a few methods for diffusing EHR tension:
Get a physician champion (and some super users)
Having a physician champion is crucial. This doctor can act as a liaison between the EHR implementation team and the rest of the physicians in the office or facility. She can help ease tension between the implementation team who is pushing for change, and the physicians who are resisting it. The physician champion should lead by example and help get other physicians on board while also giving the implementation team perspective on how the transition from paper to digital records will affect workflow.
Physician champions have such potential to encourage change that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT started recruiting them to work with regional extension centers in 2011. Physicians resistant to change will naturally be more inclined to listen to one of their colleagues rather than an outside professional, so the ONC created the Meaningful Use Vanguard – yes, that’s its real name – to assist providers in transitioning to electronic health records and qualifying for Meaningful Use.
The transition to electronic medical records is nearing inevitability for providers who don’t want to face penalties from Medicare in the coming years. Therefore, you should be able to recruit at least one physician to the EHR cause. The rest may not participate with enthusiasm (at first), but they will at least listen to their colleague.
After identifying your physician champion, it’s time to find some super users. It’s the job of the super users to learn the EHR platform in great detail, which positions them to act as quality assurance managers, and assist the rest of the staff during and beyond the implementation process.
If a concept is too big or abstract, it’s difficult to assign personal value to it. In this sense, implementing an EHR can seem like a daunting task without much payoff, a project that your staff will treat as an inconvenience. While this strategy is more difficult to scale in larger practices, it’s important to uncover the specific concerns of as many of your staff as you can. Once you understand their personal brand of hesitancy, you can speak directly to their concerns, and explain how the EHR will or won’t address those concerns.
If implementing the EHR isn’t going to allay their fears, take steps to ensure they understand the processes the practice has in place to address their unease. For example, if a staff member is anxious about using a more complex computer program, the logical answer would be to point to the detailed training they’ll receive to sharpen their skills.
The key to eliminating resistance to a large change is to understand the specific way to communicate with different members of your staff. Listen closely to their objections, and then provide feedback and solutions based on the needs of that specific staff member.
Make Training a Place for Feedback
After each training session, provide an opportunity for your staff to speak their minds. It may seem like a small step, but it’s hugely important to allow your staff some autonomy over the implementation project. More control over the projects results in greater motivation, which leads to a smoother implementation process, and perhaps even innovative problem solving.
EHR implementation is a complex undertaking, but as with most projects, communication is key. Use these guidelines to streamline your procedures and turn your office into a collaborative force.