Cutting EMR Training Budget Can Create Serious Problems

Not long ago, American Medical News ran an article on training up medical practice staffers for EMR use. The piece concluded that while practices may save some bucks on the front end, they generally end up regretting it later.  An anecdote from the piece:

Nine months after All Island Gastroenterology and Liver Associates in Malverne, N.Y., went live with its electronic medical record system, practice administrator Michaela Faella realized things had not gone as smoothly as planned.

Even though the staff had used other health information technology systems for many years and considered itself tech-savvy, it had taken everyone six months to learn how to use the new EMR system. Several months later, the staff still had not become proficient at it.

The problem was not with the staff, but that the practice cut training short to save time and money. “Training was not placed high on the priority list, and we paid the price for it,” Faella said.

As the piece notes, many practices assume that the training bundled into the cost of their new EMR will meet their needs, and find out to their regret that this isn’t the case.  (In fact, I’d argue that this is more the rule than the exception, based on anecdotes I hear in the field and in conversations with physicians.)

A consultant quoted in the piece suggests that practices should consider three main issues when planning for training:

1) How much data they’ll be dealing with, which can vary greatly depending on whether all data is imported in advance or done patient by patient

2) Whether the practice will be integrating new systems into the EMR, such as e-prescribing, or conversely, adding an EMR to existing systems

3) Whether using the EMR will call for using new hardware such as tablet computers

Personally, I’m not satisfied by that list at all.

What about, first and foremost, assessing the staff’s existing skills more precisely, walking staffers through the various layers of the EMR on a daily basis, forming teams of superusers within the organization to help the less skilled and taking steps to be sure EMR problems don’t interrupt critical functions (a backup/workaround plan for the short term)?

What do you think?  Does the list above cover the critical EMR practice integration issues?  Am I just being testy?

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.


  • I agree with you, Anne. Three items on a list cannot possibly give one a good idea of the amount and type of EHR training their practice will need. From my experience as an employee for an EHR company, these 3 considerations don’t really seem resolvable by extra training….maybe more so by technical support? We need to consider things like workflow, etc.. things that have an element which is variable practice to practice. Workarounds, like Anne says, are a must. The workaround for the EMR can also be made part of your general emergency plan, which is a necessity for all

  • In my experience, items #1, 2, and 3 would be workflow management. You are used to performing task Y 40x a day, now you have to do it differently – THAT is a big deal.

    When considering a training schedule, I want employee counts, job descriptions, and some time in the office before the training starts to catch any unique/special scenarios that are inevitably turned up in the practice. To develop a “workaround” (hate that word – it means failure to me), you have to know what the workarounds need to be in the first place.

    I wonder if the consultant in the piece has ever actually done EHR training? Worrying about a new tablet or even how much data comes over in the conversion are tertiary issues, imo.

  • Agree wholeheartedly that training is key. Analyzing current state workflows and incorporating that efficiently into future state workflows is so important and gets left out much too often. Superusers ( who have receieved additional training) really do have a big part in a successful implementation vs an implementation gone bad. Workflow analysis once the implementation is complete is also important to catch issues early on to make revisions and retrain as needed.

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