Article Date: 12/1/2009

Acclimating Staff And Patients
tech time

Acclimating Staff And Patients

How to transition staff and patients into an EHR environment.

SCOT MORRIS, O.D., F.A.A.O.

Last month, we discussed the first two steps of electronic health records (EHR) implementation: workflow analysis and technology needs assessment. Here, we'll focus on step three: Transitioning staff and patients into the technology.

The most challenging part of making the move to a technology-integrated practice is staff and patient acceptance. Advances, such as EHR, will revolutionize your practice, but proper implementation, which includes staff and patient participation is crucial to its success.

Staff: expect fear

Rule number one in technology implementation is to expect the staff to fear change. It's known as paradigm paralysis. However, a comprehensive training program that describes every step of the process will greatly ease the challenges and anxiety.

To facilitate learning, break down each step of the process into small pieces. Explain how each step will benefit each staff member and the practice as a whole. If possible, write the procedure that the staff should learn. This serves as a point for future reference as well a training guide for new staff members. Also, I recommend practice procedure sheets that contain the major steps for each department labeled. This "routing sheet" follows the patient through the office and helps each staff member to remember their new roles. After a few weeks, staff typically no longer needs these forms.

At every work station, place a similar "cheat sheet" that describes the activities that occur at that particular station. The sheets help staff through the transition, specifically during the first few weeks after you "go-live."

Training: short and sweet

For effective results, never make your training session more than roughly 30 minutes, and leave time for questions. A quick three- to five-question "review" at the end of the session ensures your staff comprehends the training. Train your key personnel first so they can aid the rest of the staff. During training, keep everyone focused. To keep the session on track, write down any problems you observe, and address them later. Make the learning process as easy and fun as possible. Remind staff of the positive impact that the technology will have on the practice in the long run. Watch out for staff members who are "technology challenged." They may need a little more time and coaching than other staff members to get them to the point where they understand. Last but not least, be patient — this is a big change.

Patients: a positive approach

Be positive and proactive. Market the fact that incorporating technology in your practice enhances its efficiency and improves the quality of care, which also enhances the patient experience. Market the change both internally (by discussing your technology with your patients) and externally (by putting a column in your local newspaper, on your Web site and on outgoing marketing materials). Once educated, patients are typically excited and even want to talk about technology in health care. Encourage questions, and prepare positive answers, for both you and your staff, regarding areas of the practice where you are asking patients to do something new.

As with all education, repetition is key. Regularly ask the staff and patients whether they have questions, and take care to identify needs you can serve. OM


DR. MORRIS IS THE DIRECTOR OF EYE CONSULTANTS OF COLORADO, LLC, AND MORRIS EDUCATION & CONSULTING ASSOCIATES. E-MAIL HIM AT SMORRIS@EYECONSULTANTS OFCO.COM.

Optometric Management, Issue: December 2009