The EHR Dress Rehearsal: Because Practice Makes Perfect

Posted on July 14, 2017 I Written By

For the past twenty years, I have been working with healthcare organizations to implement technologies and improve business processes. During that time, I have had the opportunity to lead major transformation initiatives including implementation of EHR and ERP systems as well as design and build of shared service centers. I have worked with many of the largest healthcare providers in the United States as well as many academic and children’s hospitals. In this blog, I will be discussing my experiences and ideas and encourage everyone to share your own as well in the comments.

Over the past year I have been leading the implementation of Epic for University Medical Center of Southern Nevada (UMC). On July 1st, we went live at our primary care and urgent care clinics. The go-live was a great success. While no go-live is flawless, we encountered minimal issues that could not be quickly resolved and user adoption was excellent despite the majority of the users using an EHR for the first time.

Today is July 8th, and I’m spending a quiet day in our command center just one week after go-live and reflecting on the factors that made this transition exceed even our optimistic projections. By Day 3, users were comfortable with basic workflows and bills were going out the door. One week into go-live, we are scaling back our on-site support and discussing closing down the command center earlier then expected. Our team universally agrees that the most significant factor in our success was a last minute addition to the methodology – what I refer to as the Workflow Dress Rehearsal.

In my experience regardless of the quality of training that is provided, the classroom is not enough to prepare the staff for what happens when the patients start to walk in the door. Learning in your actual environment helps staff to gain comfort and uncovers challenges in technology and workflow that even the best testing will not reveal.

The concept of doing a true dress rehearsal that mirrors the real experience as closely as possible is one that dates back to retail point of sale and inventory implementations that I did 20 years ago. During those projects, we would shut the doors of the operation and have the staff go through a “day in the life” on the new system – doing everything as they would do it on go-live day – using their actual workstations and logging into the production system. We decided to apply this same concept to an EHR implementation and provide a full-day experience for the entire clinic staff as the final component of their training.

The logistics of making this happen across 8 physical locations and 15 busy clinics required extensive planning and execution. We created a full-day experience starting with scripted patients who would be represented by a clipboard that moved from the front desk and to triage before being roomed. Nurses and physicians went in and out of rooms as they would with real patients, completing the appropriate steps in each room. Later as they gained more comfort, we substituted the clip boards with actual people who represented patients – making up symptoms to help the staff learn how to navigate the EMR and be prepared for what would happen with a real person answering questions, such as providing information out of order of the screens. By the end of the day, the staff was gaining confidence in the application and in themselves. They were also learning how to work as a team in an EMR environment. Most of all, they found the experience more fun, and more directly beneficial then their classroom experience.

The benefits to this process were numerous, and the key contributor to the reduction in our support needs at go-live. Here are just a few examples of the benefits it provided:

1) Security was validated – Every user had the chance to log into production and do actual work just as they would on go-live day. As a result, security issues were resolved during the rehearsal and we had less then a dozen security calls during the first week.
2) Hardware was tested – Taking the previously completed technical dress rehearsal one step further, every workstation and ancillary hardware device was used just as it would be on go-live day. The result was we identified gaps in available hardware, incorrectly mapped printers, and configuration issues that could be resolved the same day, eliminating issues during the actual go-live.
3) End to End Workflow Validation – Nurses, Front Desk, and Physicians had received training individually as each had different content to learn, but didn’t fully appreciate how it all came together. The Workflow Dress Rehearsal allowed them to understand the full life cycle of the patient in the clinic and how their documentation impacts others later in the process. Through this process, they gained an appreciation for each of their respective roles in the EHR experience.
4) Practice, Comfort, and Speed – Working on the system in their actual work environment helped them to gain confidence and get faster using the application. While our mock patient experience is not the same as having a real sick patient in front of them – it was the closest experience that we could create so when the actual patients walked in the door, they knew what to do.
5) Content – We encouraged physicians and nurses to try common orders and medications that they use on a regular basis to make sure they were available and setup properly. Inevitably, we uncovered missing or incorrect information and were able to correct them well before go-live. The result was minimal missing content at go-live as we had already worked out those issues.

The Workflow Dress Rehearsal process allowed us to uncover many of the issues that would have happened at go-live while also allowing the staff to gain comfort with the new solution in a lower-pressure environment. The result? A quiet go-live with minimal complications and a happier staff. Encounters were all being closed the same day, and staff were going home on schedule. These rehearsals also created an educational experience that was fun and motivating to the staff and was of more value to them then another day in the classroom would have been.

I believe that this process can be applied to the implementation of any software solution in any environment. Its not always easy, and we realize that it will be much more complicated to create this experience as part of our hospital go-live later this year. However, the time invested paid off as it saved us so much time in the support of the system during go-live, and created a better experience for our patients during our first week on Epic.

Consider how you can create a Workflow Dress Rehearsal experience for your ERP, EHR, and other solution deployments and you may find that it is a critical success factor to your go-live as well.

If you’d like to receive future posts by Brian in your inbox, you can subscribe to future Healthcare Optimization Scene posts here. Be sure to also read the archive of previous Healthcare Optimization Scene posts.