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Lessons Learned from Sutter’s EHR Implementation Challenges

Posted on September 25, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 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.

One of our more popular recent posts was published on EMR and HIPAA and was titled, “Adding Insult To Injury, Sutter’s Epic EMR Crashes For A Day.” When the post was shared on LinkedIn, it prompted a really insightful discussion on EMR training and Sutter’s approach to EHR implementation. A few of the comments were so good that I wanted to share them for more people to read and learn.

The first comment is from Scott Kennedy, an Epic Stork Trainer:

I was an Epic training consultant on the E. Bay Sutter EHR implementation and I can tell you first hand that Sutter Admin, and the Nurses are at odds. This unfortunate relationship made it difficult to train the staff. Epic itself is not to blame. Those who are using the Epic EHR are not as trained as they should be.

Sutter used an “in house” training team rather than bringing on a full consulting team with much more experience in training and educating end users. The “in house’ trainers included some nurses, RTs, and the like as well as a host of newly graduated college students who had less to no experience with conducting a formal training presentation on a multidisciplinary EHR.

Hiring and training “in house” is a great addition to bringing on an experienced, skilled, professional team of Epic credentialed trainers, like myself who do this as a profession all over the country.

We were also directed by Sutter EHR implementation Administration to “facilitate” rather than “train.” “Facilitate included passing out exercise booklets to the clinical end users and having them work on their own, rather than conducing concise, lectured, guided practice prior to each exercise. Hands on exercises are an essential part of the training, but should not be the complete focus of training.

The learner is left on their own to figure out the system, which is counter productive. That approach only builds anxiety, confusion and eventual resentment for the system and the administration who have chosen the EHR they are fumbling through.

I empathize with the clinical end users. There training experience could have been much more instrumental in getting them off on the right foot with their new EHR, had the training approach been more adult learning theory based rather than self-learning based.

I only wish I could come back to Sutter and retrain the nurses and other clinicians from the proven, consistent, progressive, successful adult learning approach, which enables and empowers the end user to grasp, comprehend and assimilate the EHR system into their daily shift work flow. That is not to say that there are not implementation bumps and optimization needs that have to be addressed, but they are far less impactful when the clinician is properly trained.

I am so sorry Sutter nurses and staff that I trained, but I was firmly told to “facilitate” your learning rather than “train” you. I tried to implement adult learning methodology, but was told by your EHR administration to “stop talking and let them do it on their own.”

Epic EHR is not to blame here. Epic is a sound, EHR system that is serving the needs of millions of patients and their care providers around the world, without incidents such as those being experienced at Sutter.

There is a right way to implement and train and a wrong way. Sorry Sutter EHR implementation administration, but “I told you so!”

I asked Scott Kennedy if he’d thought of leaving the project since it was being done the wrong way and he offered the following response:

@ John, yes I did come very close to leaving the project. As a matter of fact after I was verbally “scolded” for lecturing to much I phoned my recruiter and asked to be placed on another project, but then, after careful thought, I decided to stay on the project and attempt to train and support as much as I could. But it seems that my individual efforts were not enough to counter the original training “facilitation” focus.

To add insult to injury those of us trainers who were there for the Sutter E. Bay implementation were told not to return for the W. Bay implementation. The EHR administration wanted an entirely new outside consulting team.

I got a fellow colleague on the project, hoping that the E. Bay administration would have learned from and the current W. Bay implementation would be better. The training colleague I got on the W. Bay project shared with me that it was worse than the E. Bay implementation. They kept the experienced Epic trainers as support and utilized them as little as possible for actual front end training. So sad, really.

The EHR administration at Sutter tried to cut every financial corner possible and lost sight of the long run implications of improper front end training. Now they are paying the price.

Michael A. P., an EMR consultant offered this insight as well:

I’ve also had the misfortune of working with Sutter for a (thankfully) brief period. In their long history of attempting to implement Epic, they could be counted on to make the wrong decision in almost every situation. Their internal politics trump the advice they receive from vendors and highly experienced consultants. The result is an implementation that serves neither the patient or the users best interests.

Then, Ryan Thousand, an IT Architect at Athens Regional Medical Center, offered a broader view of what’s happening in health IT and EHR:

I hate to say it but most large healthcare organizations are getting like this as well…. There are WAY too many layers in these organizations and sometimes to get work done can mean 4 weeks of executive meetings and in the end no decision or 100% opposite of the recommended direction given. That being said, with the rapid change in healthcare and the mergers and acquisitions occurring right now, I fear the worries for Healthcare in general over the next couple of years. We cannot continue to try to meet mandates the government is making while still ensuring 100% utmost patient care; and in the end that is really all I care about.. the patient in the bed who is BENEFITING from my implementation. Change is always tough but done the right way with the right people (as you all stated above was not done correctly) we will continue to see great things happen on the HIT side. But unless Epic/Cerner all the big players in the markets as well as the local clinician and providers work together and decide the best outcomes for our patients, we will all one day suffer, as we will all one day be patients.

In all the years I’ve been writing about EMR and EHR, the biggest problem with most EMR implementations is lack of EHR training or poor EHR training. It’s really amazing the impact quality EHR training can have on an implementation. However, many organizations use that as a way to save money. If they could only see the long term costs of that choice.

EHR Training Suggestions

Posted on September 24, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 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.

In my recent post about EHR optimization, Heather Haugen from The Breakaway Group (A Xerox company) offered some really interesting insights into the challenges of EHR implementations and the ongoing training that has to happen to really have a successful EHR outcome. In the video embedded in that blog post, Heather also offered some other interesting insights to how you measure and address your EHR training.

For example, when you’re asking people if they’ve completed the training, you want to be careful how you ask the question and how you respond to their answer. You want to make sure that you don’t come off as accusatory. People shouldn’t feel like you’re on a witch hunt trying to find and punish those who haven’t completed the training (my words, not Heather’s). Instead, you should focus your questions and responses on understanding why the EMR training hasn’t been completed. Maybe there are some legitimate reasons why users couldn’t do their EMR training. You’ll never find out those reasons if they see you as accusatory.

Heather also suggested a really key insight to first time EHR user experience. A successful first time EHR user experience increases confidence. A failed first time EHR experience leads to decreased confidence.

Your EHR training should focus on ensuring that the first time someone uses the EHR they gain confidence on using the software. Increased user confidence will go a long way in helping users pick up the more advanced parts of the EHR training. However, decreased confidence will build a wall that will make future training much more challenging.

I thought these were some great insights into EHR training and implementation. What other things have you found in your experiences with EMR training?

Is EHR Optimization Possible?

Posted on September 23, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 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.

At the Healthcare Forum Heather Haugen, PhD posited that the Promise of an Electronic Health Record (EHR) is that it “has the potential to transform healthcare by providing clinicians access to comprehensive medical information that is secure, standardized and shared.”  She then proceeded to remind us how far we have come on the journey of adoption, but that we still haven’t gotten where we need to be.  EHR is indeed a lofty goal, but we haven’t gotten there yet.

Plus, Dr. Haugen suggested that far too many people are focused on the EHR implementation and yet that’s only one milestone along the EHR journey.  In fact, she compared looking at EHR implementation numbers to talking about the number of weddings as opposed to the success of those weddings.  EHR implementations are just an event, but we continue to talk about the wedding instead of the marriage.

When you start to look at EHR as a journey, the first steps of Selecting, Building, and Installing are relatively short parts of the journey.  However, the EHR journey also includes: leadership engagement, speed to proficiency, performance metrics, and adoption sustainment.  Each of these are crucial to EHR adoption, but are much longer journeys than the initial implementation steps.

The journey of adoption is challenging, messy and dynamic and we may never actually arrive at “EHR Adoption.”   EHR adoption has a lifecycle that’s influenced by many factors including staff turnover and software upgrades.  So every organization must be prepared for ongoing education, training and engagement with their end-users to keep the EHR journey moving forward.

When considering this challenge, Dr. Haugen asked the question: Can data help us? And then she offered the following suggestions on how data can help an organization.

  • Data saves time and resources by focusing on the right patients
  • Data incents actions
  • Data removes subjectivity

As Dr. Haugen said, “Measurement has impact.”  She then offered five key measurement areas where healthcare leaders can evaluate their EHR project.  Have users:

  • Understood how the application impacts their job?
  • Understood why the application was implemented?
  • Felt that the leadership team is committed to the success of the project?
  • Felt that the organization’s leadership helped them understand what they need to do to adopt the new system?
  • Felt that communication from the leadership team helped make them feel more comfortable about the change?

Each of the above measurements is really focused on making sure an organization has user buy in for the EHR journey.  After you get past the EHR implementation stage, Dr. Haugen offered a series of other important questions you should understand and measure in order to optimize your EHR:

  • How is the application being used?
  • How are upgrades being adopted?
  • How do we overcome workarounds?
  • Who is struggling to use the new system?
  • What areas of the application are confusing and could lead to clinical errors?
  • How can we gain increased productivity?
  • Inefficient workflows – what are they and how do we change them?

Each of these questions and measurements can help an organization realize where end users could use more or better EHR education.  Dr. Haugen suggested that the best way to close any learning gaps is to offer scenario-based learning that helps end users become more knowledgeable and confident in their work.

Dr. Haugen also offered a number of other early findings from their research on the EHR journey.  First, only a small percentage of users need one on one help.  Second, software upgrades erode adoption over time and so with every upgrade you need a commensurate effort to retrain adoption.  Third, optimization is the responsibility of clinical leaders.  Fourth, users want education delivered at the time of need.  Fifth, data still lives on paper.  Sixth, there is a lot of opportunity to improve productivity through more efficient workflows.

Dr. Haugen concluded that “Feet on the street are probably not going to be how we solve the optimization challenges.  The right data could help us solve the optimization challenges.”  The right data with fast, effective and sustainable training will take us a long way on the EHR journey to a secure, standardized, and shared medical record.

You can see Heather Haugen, PhD’s full presentation at the Healthcare Forum (embedded below):

The Breakaway Group, A Xerox Company, sponsored this coverage of the Healthcare Forum in order to share the messages from the forum with a wider audience.  You can view all of the Healthcare Forum videos on The Healthcare Forum website.

Personality Traits Predict Nurse Acceptance of Mobile EMRs

Posted on August 27, 2013 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.

As HIT leaders know well, clinical personnel have a wide range of responses to EMRs, ranging from enthusiastic adoption to outright panic. In most cases, hospitals can’t predict which doctors and nurses will need extra support and which will be power users until they roll out their EMR.

However, a new study suggests that by examining nurse attitudes, the HIT team can get some idea ahead of time which will jump on board with mobile EMRs and which will hang back.

Key personality traits can predict which nurses are more likely to accept and adopt EMRs, according to a new study appearing in a FierceEMR piece.

The study, which appeared in BMC Medical Informatics & Decision Making, analyzed a questionnaire filled out by 665 nurses to compute a “Technology Readiness Index.”  In so doing the researchers broke out a series of personality traits that impact on whether nurses see mobile EMRs as easy to use and useful.

Researchers concluded that four traits in particular — optimistic, innovative, secure and uncomfortable with technology — had a meaningful impact on their acceptance of technology, according to Fierce EMR:

* Optimistic nurses were more likely to see mobile EMRs as useful and easy to use
* Innovative nurses saw EMRs as being easy to use, but not necessarily useful
* Those who were insecure or technology-challenged saw the EMR negatively

According to the study write-up, researchers concluded that continuous educational programs aimed at increasing IT literacy should be provided for nurses. It also recommends that hospitals recruit, either internally or externally, more optimistic nurses as product champions for the mobile EMR.

Of course, figuring out the personality types of  nurses en masse isn’t practical in most situation. After all, most hospital IT administrators don’t have the time to do a scientific study prior to their launch, especially if they’re doing a multi-layered mobile launch using new tools and introducing new requirements. But it doesn’t hurt to know, informally at least, which types of nurses are likely to be able to lead the mobile EMR charge.

Real-Time Responses To EMR Training

Posted on February 28, 2013 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.

Teaching hospital staffers and clinicians to use your EMR is a hard enough job. Figurng out just what they didn’t learn during training is even harder. But here’s a trick some hospital administrators and IT leaders are using to do just that.

A report in the HealthTechZone blog notes that at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago, they’ve already seen some success with a technology that allows audiences to respond to quizzes embedded in EMR training materials.

The hospital’s training sessions use a polling software application called TurningPoint which allows audience members to respond to questions in real time, using either their smart phones or “ResponseCard” keypads. The technology also allows presenters to bring in audience members not in the room at presentation time and collect their responses to polls remotely.

At St. Joseph, administrators use this technology to structure their EMR training sessions more effectively and focus in on areas where the audience seems not to have understood what was presented.  It’s as simple as sending the training group on a break, reviewing the quiz and reorganizing PowerPoint slides to re-emphasize any points that the audience missed.

But the response technology’s use doesn’t end there, the blog reports. Once the formal training is over, administrators hand audience polling results to the IT team. IT administrators then use the data to address employee concerns as they proceed with the EMR rollout.

I think this is a great approach, not only for training but for gauging employee (and clinician) support for the EMR rollout, gathering input on the effectiveness of the EMR in users’ daily work lives, and generally fostering EMR acceptance by having a finger on the pulse of user sentiment.  Readers, have you tried anything like this?

Video: The Horrors Of Generic HIT Training

Posted on November 20, 2012 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.

Everyone knows training is a big burden, and tricky to pull off under the best of circumstances. Let’s hope things don’t go as badly for you as they do for the doctor and trainer in the following video.

The video, brought to us by HIT training vendor OptimizeHIT, offers a wry take on what happens when EMR training isn’t relevant for the doctor who’s getting the training. In this case, we witness the plight of a heart surgeon who’s forced through a discussion on primary care functions that she neither wants nor needs.

I recommend you give it a look. I think some of you will find this quite amusing. If the dialogue sounds familiar, my sympathies.