Physician Coaches Can Increase EMR Engagement

Today I read an interesting piece in HealthSystemCIO.com about the approach Naples, FL-based NCH Health System has taken to help its physicians ease into using its EMR.  According to Helen Thompson, VP & CIO, NCH has created a corps of physician coaches to help doctors get and stay comfortable with EMR use.

As she not too surprisingly notes, physicians are her toughest customers, rightfully demanding that the EMR helps them to deliver better care and supports their process. However, getting physicians situated is a very difficult challenge, given that they’re having to learn new processes and a new language.

To address this challenge, NCH has developed a new model for training, involving physician coaches in pre-conversion, implementation and post-conversion support for doctors. While these coaches don’t necessarily have direct clinical experience, they are very knowledgeable about both the EMR and physician workflow issues, Thompson says

The process of using the coaches works as follows:

* Preconversion:  The coaches work on programs for teaching and behavior change management plus develop an online education component.  As the teaching and behavior change takes place, they monitor progress and report as milestones are reached. To make themselves accessible, the coaches provide “concierge-like” services including making rounds with doctors or offices.

* During conversion: Coaches are available for dedicated “at the elbow” support to physicians as needed.

* Post-conversion:  The coaches offer refresher courses and change management support, as well as continuing to be available for at the elbow coaching to physicians as needed.

The coaches seem to be quite a success. NCH has seen a significant improvement in CPOE and electronic documentation measures, with adoption and engagement increased by roughly 5 percent to 10 percent. What’s more, the coaches share physician feedback with hospital leaders, allowing for ongoing improvement. (Thompson also hired a CMIO to further boost the process, which drove up e-documentation and CPOE use by a total of 25 percent.)

From my vantage point, the coaching program sounds like a very good idea. My only question is whether hospital IT departments will typically have the resources to build up a team of coaches, given that they’re generally short on time and staff as it is.  But it does seem to me that it’s a no-brainer for hospitals that can manage it to give this idea a try; after all, getting physicians on board with your EMR is worth just about any effort you put into it.

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.

1 Comment

  • Very nice.

    BTW, hospitals and vendors could take IT and related professionals who have been trained in HealthIT and EHRS, and train them to do this job. Many IT people have spent a lot of time working with bankers and other computer-phobes to help them learn how to use banking and other account management systems. This would be more formal, and should require at least something like the ONC HealthIT training, but could put people to work, improve roll-outs, and eventually many of these coaches could move into full time EHR implementation and support.

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