The following is a guest blog post by Michael Shearer is VP of Marketing for SelectHub.
Remember when you rolled out your first EMR? Many of your doctors were uncertain, frustrated or angry, insurers were rejecting claims left and right and revenue fell as providers struggled to use the new system. Ah, those were lovely days.
Thankfully, in time everyone finally adapted. Through a combination of one-on-one coaching, group training, peer-to-peer mentoring and daily practice, clinicians got used to the system. Your patient volumes returned to normal. Some, though probably not all, of them got comfortable with the EMR, and a few even developed an interest in the technology itself.
Unfortunately, over time you’ve realized that your existing EMR isn’t cutting it. Maybe you want a system with an integrated practice management system. Perhaps your vendor isn’t giving you enough support or plans to jack up prices for future upgrades. It could be that after working with it for a year or two, your EMR still doesn’t do what you wanted it to do. Whatever your reasons, it’s time to move on and find a system that fits better.
Given how painful the previous rollout was, buying a new EMR could be pretty disruptive and could easily stir up resentments and fears that had previously been laid to rest. But if you handle the process well, you might find that getting EMR buy-in is easier the second (or more) time around. Below are some strategies for getting clinicians on board.
Learn from your mistakes
Before you begin searching for an EMR, make sure that you’ve learned from your past mistakes. Consider taking the following steps:
- Conduct thorough research on how clinicians (and staff if relevant) see your existing system. This could include a survey posing questions such as:
- How usable is the EMR?
- What impact does the EMR have on patient care, and why?
- Does the EMR meet the needs of their specialty?
- What features does the existing EMR lack?
- Are EMR templates helping with documentation?
- What are the great features of your existing EHR?
- Compile a list of technical problems you’ve experienced with the system
- Evaluate your relationship with the EMR vendor, and make note of any problems you’ve experienced
- Consider whether your purchasing model (perpetual license vs. online subscription) is a good fit
Put clinicians in charge
When you bought your first EMR, you may have been on uncharted ground. You weren’t sure what you wanted to buy or how much to spend, and clinicians were at a loss as well. Perhaps in the absence of detailed clinical feedback, you moved ahead on your own in an effort to keep the buying process moving.
This time around, though, clinicians will have plenty to say, and you should take their input very seriously. If they’re like their peers, their critiques of the existing EMR may include that:
- It made documentation harder and/or more time-consuming
- It wasn’t intuitive to use
- It got in the way of their relationship with patients
- It forced them to change their workflow
- It didn’t present information effectively
These are just a few examples of the problems clinicians have had with their first EMR – you’ll probably hear a lot more. Ignoring these concerns could doom your next EMR rollout.
To avoid such problems, put clinicians in charge of the EMR purchasing process. By this point, they probably know what features they want, how documentation should work, what breaks their workflow, what supports their process and how the system should present patient data.
This will only work if you take your hands off of the wheel and let them drive the EMR selection process. Giving them a chance for token input but buying whatever administrators choose can only breed hostility and distrust.
Look to the future
When EMRs first showed up in medical practice, no one was sure what impact they’d have on patient care. Administrators knew that digitizing medical records would help them produce cleaner claims and shoot down denials, but few if any could explain why that would help their providers offer better care. In some cases, these first-line systems did nothing whatsoever for clinicians while weighing them down with extra work.
Over time, however, providers have begun using pooled EMR data to make good things happen, such as improving the health of entire populations, identifying how genetics can dictate responses to medication and predicting whether a patient is likely to develop a specific health condition. These are goals that will inspire most clinicians. While they may not care what happens in the business office, they care what happens to patients.
These days, in fact, using EMR data to improve care has become almost mandatory. Even if they didn’t bother before, practices are now buying systems better designed to help providers deliver care and improve outcomes. If your clinicians are still unhappy about their first experience, they may have trouble believing this. But make sure that they do.
The truth is, there will always be someone who doesn’t like technology, or refuses to take part in the buying process, and it’s unlikely you’ll win them over. But if your EMR actually enhances their ability to provide care, most will be happy to use it, and even evangelize the system to their colleagues. That’s the kind of buy-in you can expect if you deliver a system that meets their needs.