Posted By Monique Dever On August 3, 2016
When adopting a new electronic health records (EHR) or any new technology, there are always challenges. The challenge of learning how to use it well during the EHR implementation in order to fully maximize its benefits, and the challenge of reorganizing processes and upgrading equipment to accommodate abrupt changes. These obstacles are to be expected. But what about those you don’t foresee? In a previous blog we touched on some of the challenges that arise from people, processes and products. Here are some not so obvious problems, so that you’ll be able to better deal with them should they arise at your local health department or community health center.
We all deal with situations and changes in different ways. Some can be eager about new ventures, but many can be very resistant. It is important to identify the reluctant people prior to adopting new technology. It is also important to include them in the decision making process so that they feel connected as part of the reason for the change. If they feel included, they can better prepare for the change ahead.
One critical “people” issue is having the necessary skills. When adopting an EHR, one is required to know at least the basics of computer use. Some nurses or providers may be terrified of using computers (rather than good old paper) for clinical charting. Ahead of EHR training, provide computer skills training to individuals who may need help. With people, it is important to get them involved in the EHR selection process (to get their buy in), provide training (to upgrade their skills), and be patient (give them time to adapt).
However, at the same time, leaders must make it clear the organization is moving forward with an EHR; there is no go going back. Leaders must hold their people accountable for success. Make sure you provide training for these people so they do not develop bad habits and workarounds rather than using the technology properly. Sometime, this means retirement to ensure a smooth transition of your agency into the modern future.
The learning curve of your staff should be expected and factored into the adoption process. Any new system will initially take longer until it becomes second nature to the users. The more they use it, the faster it will go. In addition to the learning process, there is also the fact that initial patient visits will require more time to enter the one-time basic data. On subsequent visits patient documentation has fewer steps to process.
To better take advantage of a new EHR, there are also process changes you will need to make to improve your agencies workflow. It is better to rethink your processes. Some processes that work well in a paper world, may not be optimal in an electronic world. In fact, EHRs dramatically reduce duplicate data entry which in turns reduces time and effort.
See if your EHR vendor can help you identify these areas to help optimize your new workflow to maximize the EHR benefits.
Product or Technology
One obvious obstacle when adopting a new EHR would be replacing pen and paper forms for tablets or laptops. Of course this will have an initial expense, which can be challenging when it comes to funding.
While selecting an EHR, make sure it is designed for your type of clinic. Force-fitting a general purpose EHR into a local health department for example, will result in too many workarounds. Furthermore, to make a transition to an EHR easy, clinics are opting for a web-based EHR. This avoids the need for expensive servers on premises and the associated IT headaches.
The benefits of an EHR far outweigh any challenges, and keep in mind that the obstacles you face today will be lesser tomorrow and the next day and the next. Once the implementation hurdles are over, EHRs can immensely improve your processes, clinic efficiency and increase your revenue.