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Five Best Practices for Training Staff on Using a New EHR

 

It’s not uncommon for electronic health record (EHR) software implementation to be met with some resistance. After all, transitioning from a paper-based environment to one reliant on an electronic system can be daunting for physicians, nurses and other staff. Converting to an EHR doesn’t have to be something a practice dreads, however. With proper training, staff can learn even the most complicated systems.

Training isn’t just helpful—research has shown that it’s essential to the implementation process. It can help practices avoid setbacks, errors, employee turnover and other general frustrations while facilitating a smooth transition from paper to an electronic system. Without it, meaningful use of EHR technology simply isn’t possible.

Here, we’ve put together five effective EHR training tips to get staff in your practice adequately trained and comfortable on a new system:

1. Identify Employee Computer Skills and Provide Basic Training.

This is important for practices where existing clinical processes are largely paper-based and computer use is minimal. It may not be as necessary for those already using practice management software or other health technologies.

If your employees aren’t used to performing complex tasks on a computer, now is the time to find out. Your front desk staff might currently be scanning and printing insurance cards to attach to each patient’s paper chart, but do they know how to save those scanned documents? What about attaching those files to the patient’s EHR chart?

To determine each employee’s level of computer proficiency, you can use one of the many computer skills exams available online. There’s this free basic test from Independence University, as well as paid tools like Total TekAssess. If you have a good idea of the computer skills your staff will need to know come EHR implementation time, you can also create your own assessment test using a resource like ProProfs Quiz Maker.

Once you’ve identified employees in need of basic computer training, you’ll need to get them up to speed. If your budget allows, you can pay for classes at a local community college or hire someone to provide computer instruction to staff once or twice a week. There are also free resources available online to help people learn computer basics from organizations such as the Goodwill Community Foundation.

Providing adequate computer training can make the transition process easier for users wary of change and will ensure that your entire team is ready to go when the EHR arrives.

2. Designate One or Two Tech-Savvy “Super Users."

These users learn the system inside and out and will be the go-to people for any EHR questions other staff in your office may have. They’ll be responsible for providing tips and shortcuts to current users, as well as teaching new employees how to navigate the system.

To identify the “super users” at your practice, look for people who:

  • Have high computer literacy;
  • Are able to learn new concepts quickly;
  • Are excited about the EHR;
  • Are willing to help others learn the system;
  • Are natural leaders and well-respected by other staff; and,
  • Have been with your organization at least a year.

You may already have a “super user” in mind. If you don’t, you can identify these people by conducting a sort of job search within your practice. Start by making a list of the skills and responsibilities required to be a “super user,” then make these requirements known to staff members.

Offering an incentive, such as a small bonus or additional vacation day if they’re selected to fill the role, can help motivate skilled employees to come forward and take on this extra responsibility.

Conduct interviews to narrow the applicants down, keeping in mind that the ideal “super user” shouldn’t be in a position where they already have too much going on at work. This person will need to be available—at least in the beginning—for frequent EHR questions and training.

3. Train Employees Only on Areas They’re Going to Use.

Many practices make the mistake of thinking that every employee needs to learn every single area and feature of the EHR—but this isn’t practical or realistic. In fact, this kind of thinking can considerably slow down implementation and create frustration among staff.

The only people who should learn the program intensively are the “super users.” Training for all other employees should focus only on the features they’ll be required to use on a daily basis. Taking this approach will cut down on learning time, eliminate confusion and get staff up to speed on the EHR more quickly.

For example, employees in the billing department need to learn how to find insurance information and billing codes, how to send messages to a physician and how to submit an electronic claim. They don’t, however, need to learn how to transfer a chart, view test results or enter a diagnosis, so don’t waste time teaching them.

4. Conduct Post-Implementation Feedback Sessions.

Contrary to popular belief, training doesn’t end with implementation. Once your EHR has been installed and you begin using it with patients, you’ll inevitably experience a few snags—whether it’s a function that your nurses just don’t understand or a workflow process that needs to be redesigned. The only way to discover these things quickly—to prevent errors from occurring and quickly resolve those that do—is to ask staff using the EHR for feedback.

In the weeks following your go-live date, schedule weekly or bi-monthly meetings. Make sure that different members of your organization are represented—from nurses and physicians to administrative staff, billing and front desk employees.

Ask different departments how they’re handling the changes and whether anyone has noticed areas that need improvement. Find out if there are training concepts that need to be reinforced. If you don’t have time for frequent meetings, you can also send out surveys.

Once problem areas have been identified, they should be arranged by order of importance so that the most urgent issues can be tackled first. For example, training a nurse how to correctly enter vitals is more urgent than a complaint about a certain process taking longer with the EHR, due to the fact that the former can directly impact patient health (while the latter is more of a productivity issue).

Taking changes one step at a time will help staff adapt to the EHR more easily and ensure that patient care doesn’t suffer along the way.

5. Take Advantage of Online Resources Provided by Your EHR Vendor.

EHR implementations can take a financial toll on healthcare practices, especially after free training hours have run out. Ideally, a “super user” would have answers to any EHR-related questions that come up, but this isn’t always so. In these cases, educational materials provided by your vendor can be a valuable source for information.

Learning and training resources are usually made available online—all you need to access them is a username and password (provided by the EHR vendor). The most common resource provided by vendors is a training manual. Manuals include step-by-step instructions, sometimes with pictures, for performing different actions within the EHR.

Some vendors offer pre-recorded videos and tutorials that can help physicians through the process of completing different tasks. “Online tutorials allow users to teach themselves how to use the EHR at their own pace,” says Anthony Bates, a sales rep for web-based EHR company Bizmatics.

This can be something as simple as updating a patient’s current medications list to something as complex as merging duplicate patient charts. Whatever the topic, webinars and other video presentations can help you and your staff find answers to questions about your EHR without having to pay for extra training.

The same goes for community forums, which are often tied to EHR vendors’ websites. Forums provide an outlet for physicians to ask questions of other users and to join in discussions about EHR training and usage.

Implementing a new EHR system can bring a host of challenges. But by using the tips laid out in this article, your practice can eliminate many of the common mistakes and headaches most practices experience.

Employing a targeted implementation and follow-up approach will ensure you get staff up to speed and using the system efficiently in less time, allowing you to focus on what matters most: providing quality patient care.

Thumbnail image created by tableatny.

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About the Author

Amanda Guerrero is a writer and blogger specializing in EHR, patient portal technology and Meaningful Use. From her years working as a file clerk at a doctor’s office to her time as an implementation manager at an EHR company, Amanda has witnessed the evolution of the healthcare industry’s charting system.

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