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Training Your Staff for Successful EHR Utilization

by | Jun 16, 2022

Simply put, getting the most out of your electronic health records system (EHR) hinges on training your staff for EHR use. And that all begins with EHR implementation. Extracting the value of EHR features begins with knowing what features are available, who on your team would benefit from using them, and how to go about making sure that they are well utilized. Becoming proficient in EHR usage can have a positive impact on patient outcomes as it plays a pivotal role in sharing information among a patient’s care team. 

While it would be nice for an EHR to be plug-and-play right out of the box, the reality is that the software is not meant to work the same for every practice, nor will everyone on staff be using it for the same reasons. By taking the time to ensure that everyone is trained according to your practice needs, you reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls of your EHR. 

Why Is Training Your Staff for EHR Implementation Important?  

Unlike other medical records, EHR records can be shared outside of an individual practice, so a patient’s documentation moves with them throughout their healthcare journey. Professionals collaborating in a patient’s care plan will have up-to-date information at the ready.  

When everyone is using the EHR according to best practices, important details are unlikely to be missed, as providers will have accurate and complete information that allows them to carry out next steps successfully. Interestingly enough, some medical schools have introduced EHR-related coursework for students. 

When training your staff for EHR implementation is insufficient, this presents risks for medical errors, inefficiency, data breaches, revenue loss, and more. Better training also minimizes common frustrations team members may have with the EHR. That your EHR should work for you, and not against you is the consensus of Medical Advantage consultants, and training is a core best practice toward that end that saves you time and money. 

Top Benefits of Effective EHR Training 

Knowing all you stand to gain should motivate and incentivize your practice to explore improvement opportunities for staff EHR implementation training. EHRs are designed to support the demands of quality healthcare, but with so many features and options to sort through, it is wise to take the time to ensure that the whole staff becomes proficient in optimal EHR usage.

1. Get the Most Benefit 

An EHR is like a hardware store. Inside, it has every tool you need to do the job, but you will not be adding everything to your cart, and you need to understand how the materials work together before you start the work.  

EHR training is like having your own personal shopping assistant handing you the best tools and explaining how each of them works for your tasks. Instead of using what you think you need, you now have access to an expert – handing you a more suitable tool for the task further down the aisle, that you wouldn’t have noticed if it were not pointed out to you.  

By using your EHR to its full potential with a more cohesive utilization of features, the software becomes your ally in efficient operations.  

2. Promote Productivity with Efficient Workflows

The aim of having sophisticated software is to reduce manual entry, mitigate user error, and facilitate integration. If, on a frequent basis, your staff experiences redundant tasks, misaligned communication, or processes that seem needlessly tedious, it is time to explore if your EHR could be better utilized.  

Ideally, each staff member should be using the most appropriate features in a manner that best supports the workflow, and minimizes redundancy, all of which promotes efficiency and productivity. In the end, time spent on EHR tasks should be reduced, and workflows should be streamlined. 

3. Reduce Burnout  

Many dread EHR tasks, but it does not have to be this way. Healthcare professionals entered the medical field to help people but end up spending a substantial amount of time fighting with technology instead. This impacts providers more than one might expect.  

Studies have found that the lack of EHR training is the root cause of much physician dissatisfaction and that the EHR training itself predetermines work satisfaction. Those who received fewer than four hours of training reported a frustrating experience with their EHR usage, which can in turn hinder quality delivery of care.  

Two different practices could have the same EHR but have entirely different experiences with it based on what training each team receives. How a staff responds to and interacts with the EHR truly does hinge on the rigor of the training. Personalization and effective training make all the difference. Otherwise, valuable, and time-saving features may go unnoticed and underutilized. 

Talent acquisition and retention have been a challenge for many practices in recent years, so making sure they get the best EHR training can mitigate healthcare professional attrition. With well-attuned training, the practice team can be in control of the EHR rather than having the EHR chip away at time and patience. 

4. Improve Accuracy and Care Quality 

Without proper training or proper use of an EHR, patient data can be entered incorrectly: the information is wrong, omitted, or mixed up with another patient. Now imagine how all other stakeholders involved in the care of this patient will now have wrong or incomplete data on hand. This, of course, impairs care quality and potentially leads to serious missteps in patient care depending on the errors made.  

For everyone involved in making those key decisions that produce the best patient outcomes, there must be training that establishes standards of use and best practices. This will set expectations of usage that avert potential errors and cultivate exceptional care quality. 

What does accurate and timely shared patient data look like?

  • Other providers have information critical to an emergency such as a drug interaction or allergies of the patient, which is particularly helpful in situations where a patient cannot speak for themselves. Also, having this information already captured means that there is no need for the patient to provide it again, thereby reducing redundancy. 
  • Lab results are accurately documented into the EHR for all members of the care team to see, eliminating duplicate testing and patient frustration. 
  • Patients are engaged in their care plans by tracking and accessing their own lab results, or other health metrics.
  • A patient care plan remains unified and can be followed by all stakeholders as a patient moves from facility to facility. 

There are countless ways that best practices for training your staff for EHR implementation will achieve the accuracy needed for the best patient outcomes. As technology continues to make the patient experience more seamless and convenient, knowing exactly how to use the EHR to that end will continue to live up to patient expectations of a modern practice. 

5. Benefit from Cumulative Rewards 

Training your staff for EHR implementation lays the groundwork for long-term rewards such as a more reliable revenue cycle management process, and better performance on quality measures in value-based care. For example, automated coding can reduce billing errors that stymie payer reimbursement.  

A medical practice team that is adept at efficient daily use of software tools can spend less time in front of a screen and more time attending to patients. To get the most operational, administrative, and financial support from your EHR, the training process must be complete, effective, and consistent. 

And as an EHR supports collaborative care and interoperability, optimal use made possible by effective training may generate surprising positive results along the way. For example, stakeholders work through a challenging problem successfully and then going forward, apply those insights among practices. 

How Do You Train Staff for EHR Implementation?  

Developing a training framework around the unique circumstances of your practice can be an arduous task. You may need the expertise of a consulting firm to ensure that the EHR is personalized and optimized to provide consistently positive results.  

HealthIT.gov has published several resources to guide the process of training your staff for EHR implementation. To cover your bases, three core elements of EHR training must be considered: process-based, role-based, and super user designation. 

Process-Based EHR Training  

Mapping is an effective tool for any tactical strategy. Process-based EHR training is about determining the most sensible workflows for each user of the EHR while also coordinating effectively with stakeholders outside the practice.  

What needs to be accomplished from a to z, and are there more steps than necessary? Bottlenecks and workflow inefficiencies should be tackled from an angle of process-based training solutions. Who does what task and how it will be executed should be clearly defined for each team member. 

Role-Based EHR Training  

Personalized training according to each role within the organization is a core best practice for EHR training. The training modules for each group (clinicians, support staff, back office, IT, etc.) should all look different.  

EHR Training is a substantial time investment, so it is best to make these hours count by having each staff member learn only what they need to know to do the job. How many times have you sat through hours of training asking, “Why do I need to know this?” Chances are that a trainee is tuning out much of what is being presented when the material is not applicable to their role.  

Narrowing the training topics down allows staff members to focus on becoming proficient in EHR use that is most relevant to each role within the team. Having a one-size-fits-all approach will have many users trying to learn functions they will never need. Keep in mind that you can always cross-train staff as responsibilities change. 

EHR Super User Training 

Your team may already have someone operating as a super user, or you may have someone in mind. An EHR Super User is considered the go-to expert on EHR in the practice and may be called upon to assist with teaching others on the staff. Compared to other EHR users, this role will require more extensive training in the EHR. 

When unsure of who would be the best super user for your practice, consider conducting an assessment for members of your staff to identify candidates for this role. Perhaps your electronic medical records (EMR) super user may be an ideal candidate for cross training. Factors at play are: 

  • Hard skill assessment – Who has more extensive experience with healthcare software, or EHRs in particular? Who has the most technology literacy, or perhaps an information technology background? 
  • Soft skills assessment – Which staff member has the ability to troubleshoot, communicate solutions, learn quickly, keep a positive mindset about the software, and effectively coach others in EHR use?
  • Tenure – Has this individual been part of the practice long enough to understand the ins and outs of operations, and have they established rapport within the team? 
  • Bandwidth – Is the team member already saddled with so many responsibilities that it would be difficult to pivot to super user when needed? For example, a physician may have experience with many EHRs, and be an excellent teacher, but they are too busy with patients to be interrupted by EHR trouble tickets. 

Training your EHR super user is an investment that comes with a bit of risk. When someone has been extensively trained in EHR, knows how to best train others, and can troubleshoot through a variety of problems, this set of skills is sought after by recruiters in the job market.  

It is wise to compensate them well according to these special skills and responsibilities. When feasible, having one or two more super users on staff can serve as back-up in the absence of another. Having more than one super user can also balance responsibilities. 

Training Tip: When assessing your potential super users, consider evaluating everyone for computer proficiency to identify skill gaps. Awareness of where certain staff members may have challenges using the EHR may uncover remedial training opportunities in preparation for full EHR training. 

Creating an EHR Implementation Team  

Successful EHR training is about having the right people in the right places within a workflow. Moreover, the training team should have representation from every care team department – administrative, clinical, technical, etc. Core roles in training staff for EHR implementation are: 

  • Implementation super user: If you have multiple super users on your team, one of them should be assigned to direct the implementation process, including the initial training. This role involves problem resolution, mapping workflows, developing standard operating procedures, or establishing templates. This role is crucial for success as they support the many aspects of implementation.  
  • Physician: One doctor serves as the intermediary between technical staff and the front-line users and may also raise concerns about care delivery aspects that would help steer training. 
  • Department heads: For larger organizations, each department should have a lead to serve as ambassador for their respective team. They can communicate what their team needs and offer recommendations for instruction. 
  • Project Manager: Aside from the usual project manager duties, such as keeping everything on schedule, on target, and running smoothly for everyone, this role also serves as liaison between the vendor and the practice staff. 
  • Practice Manager: The world does not stop when you need to train staff on your EHR, and nor will practice operations. Someone within the managerial role will need to ensure that patient care continues while some staff are in training. Do you need to hire temporary staff or call upon PRN staff to fill in? 
  • EHR Consultant: Experienced consultants lend a hand for training development, carry out go-live, and can fulfill some super user duties as needed. 

How many people make up that team depends on your unique circumstances and the size of your organization. Additional roles apart from this list may need to be added.  

While EHR consultants are optional, their expertise is invaluable for planning training and implementation. They understand precisely how to implement the software for optimal interoperability for both internal and external stakeholders. It is worth contacting EHR consulting services with your questions to help decide if you need additional help with successful implementation. 

While the completion of go-live might feel like the end, keep in mind that EHR training does not stop there. New hires, promotions, introduction of new features, restructuring, and more all call for additional training. This also gives you a chance to refine your training so that it never stops getting better. 

Medical Advantage Can Help  

The ultimate medical practice goal is to provide the best patient care and to maximize revenue, and the quality of EHR training is crucial to achieve these aims.  

You can expect effective EHR implementation training to improve many areas of your practice including population health, value-based care, patient outcomes, healthcare data analytics, and care coordination. Long-term care facilities, medical homes, accountable care organizations, hospitals, and clinics would all benefit from an EHR training fine-tuned by seasoned EHR specialists. 

Our consultants bring to the table years of experience in the healthcare technology space. Going into your EHR training program confidently will give others the same reassurance and set a solid foundation for years to come. Reach out today with your EHR training questions! We’re here to help. 

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