A few weeks ago, Hospital Corporation of America had a rather substantial EMR outage. The outage, which was caused by a problem with storage hardware, lasted about 24 hours. It largely affected a portion of the 50 hospitals it operates in Florida, but some of the 115 HCA hospitals located outside Florida were impacted too.
Though large EMR outages are worth noting, my purpose in writing this blog is not to slam HCA. Actually, HCA staffers seem to have been prepared for the worst. In fact, according to an article from the Healthcare Financial Management Association, HCA built resiliency into its EMR rollout and operations process. And that is interesting indeed.
Hiring for talent and attitude
To roll out an EMR across its large network of hospitals, HCA leaders settled on an unusual strategy. Rather than sign up a cadre of pure HIT specialists, HCA decided to hire professionals across a wide variety of disciplines.
As it turned out, all of the 120 EMR implementation specialists it hired were under age 30, with strong organizing, communication and collaborative skills. Their degrees included English, marketing and biomedical science.
Training for rollout
To train the newly-blessed specialists, HCA created hCare University. The new team members got four to six weeks of training, including both hands-on and classroom education, in vital skills such as working with clinicians and managing projects.
hCare University also taught the implementation specialists HCA’s EMR methodology, refining the approach — and how it taught that approach — over time. HCA trialed its methods at one pilot hospital, then two more, and eventually rolled it out to 20 to 40 hospitals at a time, HFMA reports.
Stressing inclusiveness and communication
As the rollout progressed, hCare teachers and system leaders continued to hammer home the importance of effective communication — and just as importantly, making sure that clinicians felt included.
“We probably spent as much, if not more, time on the people aspects as on the technology,” said consultant Mary Mirabelli, who oversaw the rollout, as well as HCA’s Stage 1 Meaningful Use efforts. “Because you’re expecting clinicians to exhibit new behaviors and embrace a system that is sometimes not well designed for their needs, you have to figure out ways to give them control and involve them in decision making.”
Now, I admit to being a bit biased, as I’m the kind of liberal arts jack-of-all-trades HCA relied on to supervise its rollout. And I want to emphasize that I’m not suggesting that traditional HIT hires are per-se inflexible!
That being said (having declared my prejudices), I would tend to believe that HCA is telling the truth when it asserts that staff confidently worked around the outage, despite its length and breadth. I would assert that mixing in people whose primary skills are “soft” with HIT pros is an excellent way to support a resilient attitude when EMR problelms emerge.
Investing in people who can coordinate with all sides is actually good for HIT staffers. After all, doesn’t it benefit the HIT department when other folks are out there building good will, fostering cooperation and (in hopefully rare cases) minimizing damage to morale when snags or outages occur?