Free Hospital EMR and EHR Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Join thousands of healthcare pros who subscribe to Hospital EMR and EHR for FREE!

E-Patient Update: When EMRs Make A Bad Process Worse

Posted on August 14, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Last week, I wrote an item reflecting on a video interview John did with career CIO Drex DeFord. During the video, which focused on patient engagement and care coordination, DeFord argued that it’s best to make sure your processes are as efficient as they can get before you institutionalize them with big technology investments.

As I noted in the piece, it’d be nice if hospitals did the work of paring down processes to perfection before they embed those processes in their overall EMR workflow, but that as far as I know this seldom happens

Unfortunately, I’ve just gotten a taste of what can go wrong under these circumstances. During the rollout of its enterprise EMR, a health system with an otherwise impeccable reputation dropped the ball in a way which may have harmed my brother permanently.

An unusual day

My brother Joey, who’s in his late 40s, has Down’s Syndrome. He’s had a rocky health history, including heart problems that go with the condition and some others of his own. He lives with my parents in the suburbs of a large northeastern city about an hour by air from my home.

Not long ago, when I was staying with them, my brother had a very serious medical problem. One morning, I walked into the living room to find him wavering in and out of consciousness, and it became clear that he was in trouble. I woke my parents and called 911. As it turned out, his heart was starting and stopping which, unless perhaps you’re an emergency physician, was even scarier to watch than you might think.

Even for a sister who’d watched her younger brother go through countless health troubles, this is was a pretty scary day.  Sadly, the really upsetting stuff happened at the hospital.

Common sense notions

When we got Joey to the ED at this Fancy Northeastern Hospital, the staff couldn’t have been more helpful and considerate. (The nurses even took Joe’s outrageous flirting in stride.)  Within an hour or two, the clinical team had recommended implanting him with a pacemaker. But things went downhill from there.

Because he arrived on Friday afternoon, staff prepared for the implantation right away, as the procedure apparently wasn’t available Saturday and Sunday and he needed help immediately. (The lack of weekend coverage strikes me as ludicrous, but it’s a topic for another column.)

As part of the prep, staff let my mother know that the procedure was typically done without general anesthesia. At the time, my mother made clear that while Joey was calm now, he might very well get too anxious to proceed without being knocked out. She thought the hospital team understood and were planning accordingly.

Apparently, though, the common-sense notion that some people freak out and need to be medicated during this kind of procedure never entered their mind, didn’t fit with their processes or both. Even brother’s obvious impairment doesn’t seem to have raised any red flags.

“I don’t have his records!”

I wasn’t there for the rest of the story, but my mother filled me in later. When Joey arrived in the procedure room, staff had no idea that he might need special accommodations and canceled the implantation when he wouldn’t hold still. Mom tells me one doctor yelled: “But I don’t have his records!” Because the procedure didn’t go down that day, he didn’t get his implant until Monday.

This kind of fumbling isn’t appropriate under any circumstances, but it’s even worse when it’s predictable.  Apparently, my brother had the misfortune to show up on the first day of the hospital’s EMR go-live process, and clinicians were sweating it. Not only were they overtaxed, and rushing, they were struggling to keep up with the information flow.

Of course, I understand that going live on an EMR can be stressful and difficult. But in this case, and probably many others, things wouldn’t have fallen apart if their process worked in the first place prior to the implementation. Shouldn’t they have had protocols in place for road bumps like skittish patients or missing chart information even before the EMR was switched on?

Not the same

Within days of getting Joey back home, my mom saw that things were not the same with him. He no longer pulls his soda can from the fridge or dresses himself independently. He won’t even go to the bathroom on his own anymore. My mother tells me that there’s the old Joe (sweet and funny) and the new Joe (often combative and confused).  Within weeks of the pacemaker implantation, he had a seizure.

Neither my parents nor I know whether the delay in getting the pacemaker put in led to his loss of functioning. We’re aware that the episode he had at home prior to treatment could’ve led to injuries that affect his functioning today.  We also know that adults with Down’s Syndrome slip into dementia at a far younger age than is typical for people without the condition. But these new deficits only seemed to set in after he came home.

My mother still simmers over the weekend he spent without much-needed care, seemingly due to a procedural roadblock that just about anyone could’ve anticipated. She thinks about the time spent between Friday and Monday, during which she assumes his heart was struggling to work “His heart was starting and stopping, Anne,” she said. “Starting and stopping. All because they couldn’t get it right the first time.”

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.

Study: Hospital EMR Rollouts Didn’t Cause Patient Harm

Posted on September 14, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Rolling out a hospital EMR can be very disruptive. The predictable problems that can arise – from the need to cut back on ambulatory patient visits to the staff learning curve to unplanned outages – are bad enough. And of course, when the implementation hits a major snag, things can get much worse.

Just to pull one name out of a hat, consider the experience of the Vancouver Island Health Authority in British Columbia, Canada. One of the hospitals managed by the Authority, which is embroiled in a $174 million Cerner implementation, had to move physicians in its emergency department back to pen and paper in July. Physicians had complained that the system was changing medication orders and physician instructions.

But fortunately, this experience is definitely the exception rather than the rule, according to a study appearing in The BMJ. In fact, such rollouts typically don’t cause adverse events or needless deaths, nor do they seem to boost hospital readmissions, according to the journal.

The study, which was led by a research team from Harvard, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital, looked at the association between EHR implementation and short-term inpatient mortality, adverse safety events or readmissions among Medicare enrollees getting care at 17 U.S. hospitals. The hospitals selected for the study had rolled out or replaced their EHRs in a “big bang”-style, single-day go-live in 2011 and 2012.

To get a sense of how selected hospitals performed, the team studied patients admitted to the studied facilities 90 days before and 90 days after EHR implementation. The researchers also gathered similar data from a control group of all admissions during the same period by hospitals in the same referral region. For selected hospitals, they analyzed data on 28,235 patients admitted 90 days before the implementation, and 26,453 admitted 90 days after the EHR cutover. (The control size was 284,632 admissions before and 276,513 after.)

Apparently, researchers were expecting to see patient care problems arise. Their assumption was that in the wake of the go-live, the hospitals would see a short increase in mortality, readmissions and adverse safety events. One of the reasons they expected to see this bump in problems is that some negative problems related to time and season, such as the “weekend effect” and the “July effect,” are well documented in existing research. Surely the big changes engendered by an EHR cutover would have an impact as well, they reasoned.

But that’s not what they found. In fact, the researchers wrote, “there was no evidence of a significant or consistent negative association between EHR implementation and short-term mortality, readmissions, or adverse events.”

I was as surprised as the researchers to learn that EHR rollouts studied didn’t cause patient harm or health instability. Considering the immense impact an EHR can have on clinical workflow, it seems strange to read that no new problems arose. That being said, hospitals in this group may have been doing upgrades – which have to be less challenging than going digital for the first time – and were adopting at a time when some best practices had emerged.

Regardless, given the immense challenges posed by hospital EHR rollouts, it’s good to read about a few that went well.  We all need some good news!

Will Your EMR Go-Live Education Miss The Mark?

Posted on June 3, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

LinkedIn conversations can be quite the font of wisdom, and today was no exception. In comments on a post discussing how training can lead to buy-in, David Kelley, D.O. made it clear that such training often leaves participants cold:

[Have] been the recipient in a couple of Go Lives and been on a few Go Live support teams. The younger/tech-savvy people verbalize the pre-Go Live to have been not worth their time as it was targeted for below their knowledge base. In stark contrast, the more senior/less tech-savvy verbalize near-hatred of those pre-Go Live educational courses as they were so far above their heads as to equate to tech-gibberish.

By reposting these remarks, I’m by no means suggesting that go-live training is a waste of time. Nor am I suggesting that every time hospitals attempt to prepare staffers for EMR implementation, they bore the heck out of staffers while accomplishing nothing. But if Kelley’s experience is any guide, many such trainings are doing a lousy job of connecting with their audience.

His complaints also raise several questions for me, including the following:

  • Who was teaching the courses? Was it vendor reps? If so, it’s little wonder that they produced content only a developer could love.
  • What was the focus of the courses? From Kelley’s comments, it sounds like clinicians and staff typically got a general overview which didn’t do much to foster success.
  • Did the training offer hands-on instruction? And I don’t mean a quick look at basic functions, but rather specific guidance on how to perform key job functions.
  • Did instructors explain the advantages of the new systems? To get buy-in from clinicians and staff, instructors need to hammer home how the new technologies save time, improve efficiency and better patient care.

Regardless, what I gather from Kelley’s story is that too often, hospitals often talk at future EMR users rather than helping them get productive and oriented. It would appear that those responsible for go-lives often fail to consider how the implementation impacts specific functions, and talk around the issues rather than blending training with problem-solving.

I’ve actually seen the effects of what seems to have been a questionable go-live training strategy here in metro DC. Now, the hospital talked a good change management game — even loading screen savers onto all computers stating that “[vendor] is coming!” and posting signs letting patients know about the upcoming shift — for months prior to the system kickoff.

But what do you suppose happened when I spent a few days as an inpatient later that year? I saw nurses and doctors desperately trying to make the system behave by sharing workarounds with each other. Now, you tell me: Would clinical staffers be going to these lengths if they’d had thorough, pitch-perfect, hands-on training?

Healthcare IT Consulting Job Slowdown

Posted on December 1, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A recent poll on HIStalk, caught my eye. In the poll he asked readers “For health systems: how much IT related consulting will you use in 2015 vs. 2014?” Here’s an image of the responses:
Healthcare IT Consulting

It seems only fair to acknowledge that this wasn’t a deep study. It was an online poll with plenty of potential sample bias. Plus, it only had 107 respondents to the poll. Especially with it being an online poll, I’d have liked to see more respondents. However, it’s worth noting that 50% of those who did respond are planning to use less healthcare IT consulting in 2015. Although, just as surprising is that 14% plan to use more health IT consulting.

This was somewhat expected from my point of view. The consulting market just exploded over the past couple years as hospitals raced to implement an EHR and show meaningful use. As that program has started to mature, there isn’t as much need for consultants. So, it’s no surprise that the government incentivized EHR consulting market would contract back down to a more reasonable market.

That’s not to say that there aren’t still lots of opportunities for EHR consulting still. In fact, I’d argue that the opportunity for EHR consulting has never been bigger. It’s the EHR staff augmentation companies which often dress up as EHR consultants that are likely taking the hit. My feeling is that EHR staff augmentation is way down and EHR consulting is going to continue trending up. All of these hospitals need to start maximizing their EHR investment. That requires a consultant as opposed to more hands on deck for the EHR go-live.

We’re currently seeing this play out on the Healthcare IT Central job board. The type of jobs that are being posted are much more advanced. Plus, we’re seeing a maturing of EHR adoption and that’s shifting towards more full time EHR staff vs consulting.

What are you seeing in the market? Are you using more health IT consultants or fewer? Where do you see the industry headed?

Planning for EHR Consultants in an EHR Go Live

Posted on December 13, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

At CHIME 2012 I asked David Tucker, MBA, MHA, FCHIME, VP of National Sales at ESD and Kelly Mulligan, RN, BA, Chief Operating Officer at ESD about how a hospital CIO should plan for an EHR consultant. While we’d love to think that a hospital could just ask for an EHR consultant and have one there the next day, the reality is much different. Sure, you could have an EHR consultant there the next day, but if you want the best EHR consultants it takes some forethought and planning to make sure you get on their schedule. David Tucker, former hospital CIO, talks more about planning for EHR consultants in the video below.