Implementing a new electronic health record (EHR) system is no easy task—and one that a physician shouldn’t tackle alone. From the onset, you need to get buy-in from your practice’s colleagues. To do this, designate a physician champion to take charge of the effort.
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“This is a challenging position, because it’s difficult to convince people who are used to doing things a certain way to change,” says Alan K. Matsumoto, MD, FACR, FACP, partner, Arthritis and Rheumatism Associates, Wheaton, Md. “The champion must initiate procedures and protocols that their physician colleagues view as unnecessary or burdensome.” The champion should also serve as a point person to answer questions related to EHR implementation.
Prior to purchasing an EHR system, the physician champion should fully disclose all of its pros and cons so other physicians aren’t blindsided about what it can and cannot do. “Make sure it is compatible with what your rheumatologist colleagues want, so you can get better buy-in,” says Jeffrey G. Lawson, MD, physician, Piedmont Arthritis Clinic, Greenville, S.C., who serves as his practice’s EHR champion.
After you choose an EHR system, the key first step to a smooth transition is to examine your office’s workflow and assign responsibilities to other staff members, such as collecting and entering clinical data. “The more tasks you can delegate to others, the faster and better the workflow will be,” Dr. Matsumoto says.
Get Staff on Board
Employing a new EHR system is an event that you must plan for. Get employees on board by first creating a positive attitude among physicians. “In most practices, attitudes come from the top down,” Dr. Matsumoto says. “If physicians and staff in charge of the implementation aren’t positive, it will trickle down to staff and turn an already challenging task into a miserable experience.
“Be up front with staff about a system’s positive and negative features,” Dr. Matsumoto says. “Let them know that you will have regular staff meetings to discuss challenges before and after implementation. Assure them that EHR implementation will be a process.”
Along with having a physician champion, Dr. Lawson suggests having an EHR implementation committee comprising staff member champions. In addition, designate a super user (e.g., as an office manager) at each of your practice locations to determine what information is entered into the system. This person should also be responsible for providing additional training and troubleshooting. For example, if someone is having difficulty with data entry or the system locks up, the super user could assist.