In a recent blog post by Software Advice, which reviews and advises buyers on EHR software, the Director of Implementation at Cleveland Clinic was interviewed about “what makes – or breaks – an EHR implementation.” Among the many valuable insights and recommendations in the article, one sentence particularly caught my attention: “There is also a separate training class early on for practice managers.”
So many organizations overlook the importance of the practice manager in EHR implementation. This is the person who’s going to set the tone, get the team engaged, hold people accountable, and ultimately make the new system work for the practice; and yet this key player often tends to get left out of the EHR implementation process.
In contrast, Cleveland Clinic holds the aforementioned practice manager training class, where work flow design is included. I’m an advocate for this type of focused and tailored attention on the practice managers’ involvement. Perhaps its because of my pre-consulting experience working in the trenches of small clinics, or maybe the influence of ECG’s general emphasis on day-to-day practice operations and leadership; either way, the involvement of a practice manager as the designated on-site lead and change agent can indeed “make or break” an EHR implementation.
How a manager faces all of the challenges inherent in running a medical practice must fundamentally change to support adoption of an EHR in a way that allows for optimal organizational performance. But standard EHR implementation methodologies do not recognize the need for this change at the practice management level. Nurses are trained to enter vital signs, and providers are trained to send electronic prescriptions – shouldn’t practice managers be given the opportunity to learn how to adapt to a new way of doing things?
Importantly, involving practice managers in EHR implementation is about more than just getting them familiar with the nuts and bolts of a new system. From evaluating and using newly available data to revising expectations, policies, and procedures, practice managers’ leadership is vital. During implementation, managers should understand the impact of the system on their practices so they can involve and prepare their providers and staff, setting realistic expectations and identifying barriers. Roles and responsibilities as well as job descriptions will change because adoption of the EHR has become central to how the practice operates. Recruitment, orientation, and training will all be different. Practice managers must adapt to a new way of doing things, and if they can participate in the implementation in a meaningful way, then they can effectively lead others. This can be the difference between a practice that merely deals with change and one that embraces and even capitalizes on it.
So don’t lose sight of the importance of that one sentence in the Cleveland Clinic piece. Practice managers require the same customized training and support as the other system users, and they also need help in understanding their overall role in the implementation. Otherwise, achieving and maintaining real success with your EHR is much more difficult.