Whether you are installing a new electronic health record (EHR) system in your practice or upgrading an outdated system, you can’t skip training. EHR training is not a one-off event; rather, it involves planning, preparing, and conducting of well-timed, pretraining and post-training activities that contribute to the overall training experience and the success of the new system. Through this blog, I endeavor to give you a brief introduction to each activity and how to make them count in the training process.
Get Their Vote
George Bernard Shaw said, “progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”. Perhaps your staff:
- Is comfortable with the way things are done currently
- Believe they are too old to change
- Foresee arduous hours of training
- Don’t have faith in a ‘paperless’ system
Any of the above attitudes could hamper effective training, slow down progress, and hinder the success of the EHR system. So, the first step to training (although not training in the true sense of the word), would be to win them over. When your staff knows what’s in it for them, they will view the new system and its related training, positively.
- Point out the disadvantages of the way processes are currently managed and how the new system can combat them.
- Let them know how they will benefit from the new system (easier, simpler, faster, and an error-free way of working).
- Use an ‘EHR champion’ within your organization to promote this cause and spread awareness.
Identify and Provide Basic Computer Training
Basic computer skills are required to operate any EHR system. It’s surprising how we take basic computer skills such as copy/pasting a document, printing, scanning, saving a document and sending attachments, for granted. Remember: Your staff might include a mix of those who possess these basic skills and those who don’t.
- Knowing what skills will be required beforehand will give you an idea of the computer skills your staff must possess.
- Conduct assessments or make use of a questionnaire to identify people who need basic computer training.
- This training must take place before the actual EHR training.
- Conduct training in-house, or make use of free online resources.
- You can suggest a quick refresher course for those who are computer-literate.
Train the Trainer
Before training your staff, your EHR vendor will train your trainers and/or a few staff members who can help with training/assisting employees in the use of the new system. This initial training is crucial because after this training, your vendor might not be as forthcoming with helping you. Also, whatever knowledge/information is shared during this training will be carried forward to the rest of your staff. When choosing staff members for this role, look for people who are:
- Tech savvy
- Quick learners
- Excited about the new system
- Willing to learn and teach
- Capable of being both leaders, as well as motivators
- Liked and popular with the staff
Provide Relevant Training and Conduct Assessments
EHR systems have multiple capabilities such as storing health information and data, managing test results, procedural, and lab reports, taking care of order management, decision support, patient support, and administration processes (such as admissions/discharges, and inpatient/outpatient procedures), and managing reporting requirements – to name a few.
It’s a waste of time to train your entire staff on every one of these functions, when all they really need to be trained on is what concerns their job function. Make training meaningful – the type and amount of training should depend on each user’s job role. Create a list of people who will be using the system and:
- The nature of their work
- The EHR functions related to their work
- The EHR functions and processes they must be familiar with to carry on their work seamlessly
- The related training that they will require
Training must take place alongside the implementation process and not after the system has been installed, to save time and get staff on the new system as quick as possible.
Conduct assessments post training.
Irregularly-performed tasks might be forgotten, so provide performance support and assessments at regular intervals to prevent this from happening.
Make Use of the Vendor’s Performance Support
Once training is completed, the vendor’s role as ‘trainer’ becomes nonexistent; and the only ones who are privy to the initial training in its true and undiluted form are the trainers and some users. However, most vendors have several resources that clients are given access to. A simple username and password are all that is required to access this information that is usually provided online as videos, webinars, articles, eBooks, and even training manuals. There would also be online forums setup for users to interact and share notes. Whether it’s a simple instruction on how to fill up a patient’s details into the system, or a more complex problem such as merging duplicate patient information, users can have access to all their answers at no extra cost.
Even after all the above steps have been performed carefully, users might be uncomfortable with the new system. Another possibility is that the system itself has glitches that prevent users from performing some functions. Once the system is in place and your staff have migrated to it, get regular feedback from them. Conduct biweekly/monthly meetings with department heads to take cognizance of:
- Glitches in the system
- Problems that users face
- Problems that individual departments face
- Areas of improvement
Sort out these problems in a step-by-step manner, in order of priority. Once work progresses seamlessly, you can cut back on the frequency of these meetings.
As Canadian writer and leadership speaker, Robin Sharma says: Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end. I think this is absolutely true of moving to a new EHR system as well. However, with the right training, your staff can get to the end pretty quickly and enjoy the benefits of successful training.