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Tales from the EHR Trenches: Communication
Tales from the EHR Trenches:  Communication

Before you implement your system, it’s a good idea to give some serious thought to communication. No matter how carefully you prepare your system, no matter how much input you’ve received throughout the build process, there will be changes to both the system and the workflows during and after Go Live.

And these changes will need to be communicated to a lot of people. So, having your communication plan in effect before you roll out your first site is highly recommended. 

How do you decide on a communication plan? First, consider your organization.

  • How many users do you have?
  • Are they all centrally located? Or are they scattered in different sites?
  • Are your physicians on site every day? Or do some of them work part time?
  • Does someone in your organization have the authority to require that all users join an internet site, like a discussion board or a blog, in order to receive updates?

As with every aspect of the EHR, knowing your users will help you create a first-class plan for communication. 

What types of communication are needed? This may seem like an odd question, but there are many different types of information that will need to be passed along to your users.  Some issues are urgent and require immediate communication, while other items may be “FYI” only.   And not all tidbits of info from the EHR team will apply to all users, either, so there is usually some filtering that will be required. The OB-GYN doctors don’t need to know about updates to the EPSDT forms, for example. So, who will be responsible for filtering the information for the various offices/users? If your EHR team is large enough, they might be able to handle this task; however, if not, there may need to be a centralized, electronic “warehouse” for updates that the individual departments will need to monitor and filter down to their employees.

Some of the options for communication include

  • emailing individual users (utilizing a list serve if needed);
  • sending tasks through the EHR system;
  • posting updates on a social media site, like Facebook;
  • using a blog;
  • developing a website with a discussion board feature so that the users can talk to one another;
  • holding regular meetings with the staff;
  • starting user groups;
  • holding webinars.

For a large organization with employees in remote locations, the electronic/videoconferencing options will probably work best, while smaller groups that are centrally located may prefer to meet live once every week or two. Another option that we have embraced for immediate communication is text messaging. This allows us to send a text message to all of our user’s cell phones so that they can get instant updates for catastrophic system issues. The benefit of this system is that it does not require that the user be on their computer in order to receive the message, and it doesn’t require that they check their email before trying to log onto the system to work.  Another highly recommended means of daily communication is to utilize a Help Desk. This allows the users to call a single number, which can be assigned to several members on the EHR team.  This prevents missed calls and provides more immediate customer service.

Another issue that may arise with your newly minted communication plan is enforcement. Your EHR team can post new changes on a discussion board, can email it to the office managers, and can even send a personal message to the individual doctors if necessary. But if nobody reads it, it’s essentially worthless. That’s why having some rules in place prior to Go Live regarding keeping up with EHR communication will prevent headaches later on down the road.

Communicating with a large number of employees isn’t always easy, and it generally adds a lot of extra work to both the EHR team and the individual users; however, it is an essential element of having a successful roll out of your EHR system. Changes to the system will continue indefinitely—they will slow down after a few months of being live, but as new upgrades come along, there will inevitably be new changes to the system, as well as alterations in workflows. Making sure that all of your users are aware of these changes is essential.

 

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The Quillen ETSU Physicians EHR Team consists of Monaco Briggs, Jennifer Logan, and Tracy Jones. Quillen ETSU Physicians is the multispecialty group teaching practice for Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn.  

 

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