How to Assess EHR / EMR Systems Training and Implementation
Training and implementation are key factors that drive the success and satisfaction you receive from any EHR software. Why is it so important to discuss these areas in detail before you make a purchase? Simply, becoming proficient at using your EHR software is the key to getting maximum value from the investment. Let’s face it, regardless of the quality of your EMR software. If it’s not configured for your practice needs, and if you don’t really know how to use it, then what’s the point in having an awesome software?
Well-trained Users are More Productive
When users understand the software’s functionality and full potential they can work faster and do more. For learning how to use the software, EHR systems training is second to only actual hands-on experience. A good trainer develops a quality depth of understanding which shortens the learning curve.
How to Assure Receiving Proper Training
Being able to receive proper EHR systems training is made possible only if you hired a customer-centric software vendor. Note that we cite "vendor" and not "brand of software". This is an important distinction because many EMR software brands are marketed by individual vendors – each with their own style of customer service. Before you hire a software vendor, take time to ask a lot of questions about the training process and trainers.
Relevancy – The Greatest Challenge
Arguably, the greatest challenge for clinical users of an EHR software system is achieving harmony between training and your practice’s workflow. Done poorly, the experience is a tail-wags-the-dog situation wherein training is a one-size-fits-all introduction to only core functions. While it’s great to be introduced to all of the available features the best training considers the workflow of your practice. More to the point, your EMR system trainer should gain a working knowledge of your workflow, and then demonstrate how the software serves your workflow process.
Many trainers have a standardized presentation which is expected to be covered in a specific amount of time. This approach does not budget time for a lot of in-depth instruction on merging your process into the software’s capability. A suggestion before training begins is for you (the customer) to train the trainer. Let the trainer know about your workflow, and request that they cover related functionality in more depth. Give your trainer the knowledge (power) to empower your team!
The Value of Training and Technical Support
The all-important cousin to training is technical support. You could think of EHR technical support as issue specific training on demand. When a user is facing a problem they generally have only two options. One, figure it out on their own. Two, call a tech support rep to get professional advice and get in-depth training. How important is technical support? HealthcareITNews writer Diana Moore wrote an article which cited research claiming, "Physician offices with minimal or no technical support did not show any significant improvements, even when these practices had been using EHRs for up to two years, the study found."1
Avoid the Top 3 Complaints About Training
Many of the frustrations in implementing a new EHR software system occur because the people who made the purchase decision did not dig deep enough into real-world specifics. Often the decision makers are not software users so how things roll-out in real-life is not adequately discussed. For example, sales reps toss out glossy lines like "training is included" and "we offer full support" but what this means is never clarified. The shortcomings are not realized until your staff hits roadblock after roadblock. While all of these issues are being chased your front-office productivity suffers.
When undertaking your pre-purchase due diligence be sure to ask a lot of questions about implementation and support. You may want your front office staff to submit a lot of questions to get a better idea of where you’re headed. The following are three common problem areas you should address before buying a new EHR system.
Top Complaint #1 – Communication Problems
Chances are, at some point you’ve experienced the agony from having a bad instructor. A top complaint among U.S. EMR software trainees is the problem of trying to work with foreign outsourced customer support. Learning a new software system can be challenging enough without having to overcome difficulties understanding the trainer. There’s really only one way to avoid this problem – make certain your software vendor has a U.S. based support team.
Top Complaint #2 – Lackluster Training
What if your new EMR software vendor is coming up short on the training experience? Our advice is to escalate your concerns within the ranks of your vendor. If your vendor cannot adjust to your needs you may need to find another vendor. After all, if they have poor training support upfront what quality of service do you think you will get (or not get) down the line? Beware of a bad first date that is going to turn into a really bad relationship.
Top Complaint #3 – The Ticket System
When you’re trying to work in a new system and hit a snag you need answers right away. A lot of vendors require you to log in to their system and open a trouble ticket… with no way to speak with a person. In this situation, you’re stuck until somebody gets back to you . . . today, tomorrow, whenever. The optimal situation is being able to call an assigned rep and quickly get the help you need.
Something that can greatly help your trainer is being able to meet individually with system users. As mentioned, the training needs to be sculpted to reflect on how it fits your workflow. In a similar way, the trainer can further personalize training to fit the skill-level and disposition of individual users. As with most learning environments, you get superior results with more individualized training.
Tips for Better Training Results
The rigors of running the front office leave little time for team meetings. This means that you have to get the most from whatever time you have. This is better achieved when distractions are minimized and active participation is high.
The importance of structured, detailed training is stated well by Gaby Loria on the Software Advice website. Ms. Loria states, "Training isn’t just helpful—research has shown that it’s essential to the implementation process. It can help practices avoid setbacks, errors, employee turnover, and other general frustrations while facilitating a smooth transition from paper to an electronic system. Without it, the meaningful use of EHR technology simply isn’t possible. "2.
Accordingly, here are a few general tips to optimize your training time:
Minimize distractions. Whether it’s working lunches, after-hours sessions or a Saturday, you need training to occur when there will not be disruptions that divide attention or compromises focus.
Encourage active participation. Remind your staff the purpose is to learn and “there are no dumb questions”. Every user must have a solid understanding of the software in order to achieve and maintain peak performance.
Use real working models. If possible, the software pages should be developed and display exactly like what users will use every day. Don’t train on a "template view" and then drop your employees into a different look and feel.
Remember to cross-train. When possible, make certain that at least two people have a good understanding of any particular area. As you’ve learned, you need to back up people to protect the continuity of business.
Teach internal-customer support. Teach every employee that everything they do will impact someone else’s work. The person to whom your work goes is your internal customer. Teach them how to enter and manage information in a way that it enables the next person to do a better job.
Set a hard start date. People are typically reluctant to change, and some will do anything to delay a change. Set a hard date to switch from your old system to your new system. This will drive the urgency for your team members to achieve proficiency.
Post Training Assessment
After your initial training has been completed it is always a good idea to do some sort of assessment on how well your team has been educated. Usually, everyone will say a general response along the lines of they understand it but may have a question at some point. What you need to know is how well are they prepared to start using the EHR software right now. One possible way to do this is to create an online skills assessment test using a service such as ProProfs Quiz Maker.3
Every training experience has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities. Map-out a customized training plan that smoothly blends the technical instruction into your team’s personality and the culture of your practice. When the key stake-holders and trainer(s) have open communication the ability to achieve fantastic results is nearly guaranteed.
FOOTNOTES & CREDITS
- 1 Diana Manos, “EHRs not enough, study finds”, January 8, 2013, Available from HealthcareITNews
- 2 Gaby Loria, “Five Best Practices for Training Staff on Using a New EHR”, April 25, 2017, Available from Software Advice
- 3 ProProfs Quiz Maker, “What is online assessment software?”, 2019, Available from ProProfs Quiz Maker