Hospital uses pre-meds to support doctors with EHR transition

Imagine  an EHR installation process in which everyone comes out a winner…OK, think harder….Yeah, I couldn’t either. (It’s kind of depressing, but really, how often do you read good-news stories about an EHR rollout?) But believe it or not, we do seem to have found one, courtesy of Healthcare IT News.

A new program at State College, PA-based Mount Nittany Medical Center is using pre-med students from Penn State to coach doctors on using EHRs. Not only does the program give doctors a level of clinically-aware support they wouldn’t have otherwise, students are getting career advice and support, the magazine reports. (The story doesn’t state which EHR the hospital was using, but my guess is that that the facility bought MEDITECH’s enterprise medical record; the vendor notes that Mount Nittany has worked with MEDITECH products for many years.)

Mount Nittany is working to complete its implementation by the end of 2011, in an effort to be eligible for Meaningful Use incentives.  To help doctors get comfortable with the new system, the medical center has recruited 39 student coaches, making them available around the facility from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days per week.

The program was created by the hospital’s chief medical information officer, Dr. Stephen Tingley, a physician who formerly practiced at Penn State.  As the year-end MU deadline approached, Tingley was running out of options, as it was proving almost impossible to get his 250  doctors together for training. The program was popular with the pre-meds, 145 of which applied to be a coach.

Not only has the coaching effort helped doctors get situated, it’s given pre-med students a rare opportunity to get career advice and ask questions about their preferred specialties, according to the article.

The Healthcare IT News piece doesn’t specify how the pre-meds got the training they needed to coach the physicians, what that training cost, or how much the coaches were paid, if at all. In other words, there’s no way to tell whether this approach would cost more or less than offering conventional training (though my best guess is “less”).

That being said, I’d be stunned if this approach didn’t work better than virtually any other method. When you give doctors a chance to speak their own language and educate future peers, it’s got to be better than dragging them into a lecture hall, demanding they complete online training or forcing them to self-train.

I say, bravo to Dr. Tingley. I suspect hospitals nationwide will be testing out this approach in the near future. It makes too much sense not to give it a try.


About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

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