Another Look At Easing EMR Adoption Problems

Posted on July 22, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Though EMRs are no longer a brand-new thing, rolling them out is still a difficult challenge for hospitals. After all, even the best platforms can require significant changes in staffers’ day-to-day work, which isn’t easy for anyone. And some less technology-savvy workers may struggle to pick up new routines. Plus, we’re still seeing a lot of EMR implementations as hospitals switch EHR vendors, EHR vendors get sunset, and hospitals get acquired by larger hospitals with different EHR.

So I was interested to read yet another take on how hospitals can survive this tumultuous period. This one comes from Next Services, an Ann Arbor, MI-based health IT software and consulting firm. Here’s some of the more interesting steps Next Services offers to help smooth out the adoption process:

  • Have managers create a 3×3 matrix sorting key players by skill and resistance. Along the top, divide the rows into high, medium and low skill sets, then along the left side, label three columns for high, medium and low resistance levels. Sorting workers into categories such as high skill/low resistance, high skill/high resistance, low skill/high resistance and so on can help managers predict what issues will arise for individual workers.
  • Roll out EMR in modules rather than phases, and don’t go to the next set of modules until you and your team are hundred percent confident that everyone can use them. Also, start with core modules that help document the basic chart, then expand outward to modules with greater functional depth.
  • Prepare staff for crises. Think through all of the ways that the rollout could go wrong during live patient care use, and make sure staffers are prepared to react appropriately when such an event happens.
  • Think of the rollout as a game. To encourage staffers, offer points for important factors such as knowledge, helpfulness and speed. Then put a chart presenting the results on a big monitor for everyone to review at the end of the day.
  • Celebrate your successes. Celebrating small wins with the staff during the rollout can help keep the atmosphere positive. Celebrations can be anything from an ice cream social to a simple group cheer.

While I find these suggestions to be interesting and useful, I’d love to see a companion list providing suggestions on how hospitals and health systems can help staffers cope with a second or third EMR rollout. My guess is that such a transition poses different management challenges than pulling the switch the very first time.

As I see it, such implementations could range from toxic (staff was exhausted by the first rollout and doesn’t want to play this time) to comparatively easy (staffers learned a lot the first time, and find additional changes to be less upsetting than they did the initial go-live). And obviously, much will depend upon how the next implementation is managed, how training is presented and how the previous rollout went.

Still, there must be ways to ease the blow regardless. What suggestions would you have for health IT leaders who are navigating their second or more EMR rollout?