When it comes to selecting an EHR software, there are many attributes of the system to consider and compare before choosing. Many EHRs on the market today will be focused on your particular needs and may even cost about the same, but how do you know what you’ll get after go-live? Will you experience easy sailing or extreme frustration? This will highly depend on two things: the “can-do” attitude of your staff and the accessibility of your vendor. In both cases “communication” is key.
People need to have the right attitude, knowledge, and experience for working through the change involved in moving from either paper or an old EHR to a modern new EHR. So getting an EHR optimized for your clinic type (e.g. public Health, FQHC, Family Planning, etc.) and upfront, in-depth training are critical. For various functions (e.g. patient registration, immunization, family planning, billing), it will be best to identify and grow champions or “super users” of the new EHR. These super users can become internal go-to resources for ongoing internal issues. Even still, your staff will need to contact the vendor’s support team from time to time, so they must have accessible channels to reach them during the real-time needs they operate under.
Multiple access methods allow for improved accessibility. Here are seven levels of user support and service techniques (from easy questions to in-depth troubleshooting) which you should expect from your EHR vendor:
Built-in Support button: Does your system include a direct access to online support? Direct online connection allows quicker turnaround for your questions, and is usually the best way to go as long as there are responsive people on the other end of the support request; people with knowledge and troubleshooting capabilities.
Screen shots: Smarter EHRs now include a support button which captures screen shots of the user’s screen and sends it directly to the support team. Screen shots offer visual clarification of your problem occurrence, and should be able to be submitted via online support access or email, any time of day. These are important when verbal descriptions are not enough to convey the problem details.
Phone access: There will be times when you just want to talk to a person so a live support person who understands your clinic workflow (e.g. for public health, FQHC, primary care) needs to be accessible. You should never end up navigating through a phone tree only to land in voicemail! If you do not get a live person when you call in a support request, you are almost guaranteed a delay in your resolution.
Access to self-help knowledge base: Sure, a support person explained everything on the phone, but now you wish to get access to the written knowledge base article to follow the step-by-step instructions. A good knowledge base helps users learn advanced capabilities of the EHR. Also, does the EHR have built in videos for self-learning? Whether it is a new system for your department, or you have a new hire that may not be familiar with the system, a library of how-to’s can be a very useful resource.
Desk-top sharing: For true troubleshooting needs, sharing your screen with the support personnel, allows them to follow the user’s workflow, check settings, or visually see something that you may not think to tell them, which just might be the root of the problem. Desk-top sharing, conducted through virtual (online) meetings allow real-time trouble shooting for faster resolution, like everyone is in the same room!
Ongoing Learning: Just like any new technology, no one can learn all the features your EHR has. Does your EHR vendor offer an ongoing additional training program, via webinar or user focus groups? Are the EHR vendor experts easily available to you or are you dealing with a big company where you cannot find the right expert?
Executive Access: Some questions are more appropriately addressed at the executive level. Are your EHR executives available and willing to have these conversations?
Resolutions to your support requests should be provided the same day for simple issues and within days for more in-depth issues. For this to be achieved, accessibility to your vendor should be ever present. Communications keep the processes smooth, and help make sure your workflow has minimal interruptions.