American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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EHR training is mission critical

From the January ACP Internist, copyright 2012 by the American College of Physicians

Implementation of an electronic health record (EHR) is an arduous process and an extremely challenging time for any practice to endure. The selection process alone can take months of reviewing products, visiting practices and negotiating an agreement. Preparing the practice for conversion to an electronic record (or conversion from one EHR to another), including re-engineering workflows, forms, templates and screens leading up to the go live date, can cause plenty of anxiety for both staff and physicians. But one aspect of EHR implementation is often undervalued, and that is training.

Training allows a practice to use an EHR the way it is designed to work. It's not just about being able to turn the system on and start using it. Many tech-savvy people can learn the basics by teaching themselves. Training is more about learning to use the EHR to enhance patient care in a productive and meaningful way, as a coaching tool to engage your patients without spending more time than you did using paper.

A recent survey report released by AmericanEHR Partners proves just how important training is. The survey data indicate a significant correlation between the length of initial training and overall user satisfaction with the EHR product. Ratings on ease of use for basic EHR functions required for meaningful use continued to improve with two or more weeks of training. For the advanced meaningful use features, such as formulary checking and medication reconciliation, receiving at least one week of training showed a significant improvement in usability.

Given how much a practice invests in an EHR both financially and operationally, it is short-sighted to skimp on the training. Resist the temptation to dive right in after only a day or two. It is important to devote adequate time to learning how to use some of the more advanced features and functions. The method of training (on-site, off-site, or online) doesn't matter as much as the amount of time spent learning the system.

The report also found that another key indicator of EHR satisfaction is involvement in the selection. If you are going down the EHR selection road, it pays to be involved. More details on the AmericanEHR Partners survey are available online.

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