How Electronic Health Records are Like Luxury Cars

| May 29, 2012

You wouldn’t expect to master a luxury car’s automatic parallel parking feature during your first driving lesson. So don’t expect staff members to master an electronic health record’s advanced features too soon.

You’ve just purchased an expensive electronic health record (EHR) system and you want to get the most out of it. So you design an aggressive training program that teaches staff members the system’s advanced features. 

The sooner employees learn those features, you figure, the sooner your EHR system will be producing cost savings, increasing efficiency and improving patient care.

Not so fast, says Andres Jimenez, M.D., chief executive officer of the Implement HIT training company. It might be better to treat your EHR like it was a Bentley, the revered luxury sports car that comes with its fair share of advanced accessories and features.

"The driver must first learn how to control the vehicle, drive straight, yield to alerts like school zones and avoid any major accidents,” Jimenez recently told Becker’s Hospital Review. “These are the basics of driving. Once you master the basics, you…learn about the cruise control, heated seats and automatic parallel parking.”

Similarly, your staff will first want to learn the basic features of your new EHR system, which include entering the resident’s medical history, writing a progress note or adjusting the plan of care when an alert pops up. After employees master these features, says Jimenez, then it’s time to move on to most complicated EHR-related tasks.

Tips for EHR Training

As the number of EHR deployments increase nationwide, so does the availability of tips and advice aimed at helping providers get the most out of their digital records systems. Here’s a sampling of tips from Jimenez and Dennis Stufft, president and chief executive officer Prelude Services. 

Stufft’s tips appeared in Senior Housing News:

  • Train employees in phases. Take a gradual approach to EHR training. Start out with basic EHR capabilities and then introduce advanced tasks in several follow-up phases. Save the more advanced training for after your EHR system goes lives. 
  • Personalize the pace. Some staff members may master EHR basics in 2 weeks, while other may need a month. Training sessions should allow quick learners to move ahead but shouldn’t rush learners who need more time. Offer a variety of training session options and let staff members attend the sessions that apply to their level of expertise.
  • Tailor the content. Different departments at your organization may use your EHR system differently. Therefore, large training sessions attended by all staff may not be as effective as small-group gatherings that target specific staff needs. You’ll make training more relevant if you focus first on teaching employees the EHR skills they will use every day in their particular jobs. 
  • Don’t forget the basics. Don’t assume all staff members are equipped with the knowledge and experience to manage high-tech devices. Expect a learning curve with both devices and software.
  • Train for data security. Staff should be aware of the impact their actions can have on the security of resident health records. For example, the organization should inform staff that lending out credentials like passwords is a breach of data security that carries serious consequences.