The Digital Revolution Almost Killed Me – And Healthcare Just Might Be Next

By: In: Document Imaging and Management On: Dec 12, 2011

EMR adoptionLet me be the first to admit I have a love hate relationship with social media. For quite some time I avoided it like the plague. Facebook was fun socially but the thought of integrating platforms like Twitter into my professional life was cringe worthy at best. To me, it was a passing craze that would come and go so I confidently decided to wait it out. Sadly as I stubbornly staged my one man march against the big social media beast my peers, friends, and – gulp – even my competition were not only embracing this new medium but mastering the art of social media marketing. In a strange twist of fate human need wasn’t outpacing the capabilities of the technology. In fact, the platforms were growing, evolving even. Suddenly, I realized that it was not the technology at risk of becoming obsolete at all – it was me!

So, admittedly begrudgingly, I hopped on the social media band wagon. Full disclosure – at first, it was extremely frustrating. Adopting this new technology required me to change the way I thought, change the way I behaved and, perhaps most painfully, change my daily routine. Figuring out where to start was half the battle. But like anything, the more I did it, the easier it became and the better I got at it. Eventually, the technology that I had envisioned distracting me from my core responsibilities became a key driver of efficiency in my day to day life. The reality is everything just became that much more accessible. Now, up-to-the-minute news tailored to my specific interests automatically funnels through my TweetDeck, industry peers and leaders that would have otherwise been inaccessible through traditional communication mediums are a simple tweet away, and customer insights are easily uncovered through the multitude of specialized groups, forums and communities.

Reflecting on my journey, I can’t but help to think about others going through a similar transition: healthcare providers. As the EMR takes the healthcare world by storm, providers are facing a digital revolution with many of the same challenges I faced – except with much higher stakes. Adoption is difficult. It’s uncomfortable. And at first, it will feel like more of a distraction than a driver of efficiency. Organizations can, and may, choose to slowly wade into the shallows, holding onto what’s comfortable. But much like my one man march against social media, it’s a fruitless effort. The industry is evolving and will continue to evolve – with you or without you. Those that hesitate will run the risk of falling exceedingly behind in very big ways, most importantly in efficiency and quality of care. The reality is, jumping in early and facing these challenges head on will undoubtedly pay off over the long term.

That said, I am in no way over simplifying a very complicated challenge. Achieving full scale EMR adoption is far more complex than simply installing TweetDeck on your desktop or learning to hold your content to 140 characters per Tweet. It requires an organizational revolution. Everything from technologies, to workflows, to the way providers treat their patients needs to be re-evaluated and reengineered. And that’s only half the battle. Once the framework is in place, providers will still need to be convinced that this undoubtedly painful change is worth breaking away their very comfortable, perfectly honed routines. Harder yet, they’ve got to be persuaded to invest time they don’t have to adapt to a new process – and, dare I say it, new technology. So how do you do it? How do you encourage risk adverse, time-strained, creatures-of-habit like myself to not only break away from what’s comfortable but to remain committed throughout the process in order to make it out to the other side? Sadly there is no one size fits all answer. There are, however, a few best practice tips and tricks that can help you along the way:

  • Calm Their Fears: If you are early in your EMR implementation, the best way to alleviate the fears that can drive provider resistance is include your providers in the process. Keep in mind, physicians will need to adjust not just the way they record their appointments, but the way they interact during the patient visit. Don’t leave them to wonder and worry about how the changes will affect them. Have open conversations. Ask them how they work and what they need. Giving them some say in the interface layout and functionality, as well as the process changes coming down the pike, will alleviate concerns that the new program “isn’t going to work for the way I work.”
  • Speak to Their Pains: While of course the benefits EMRs bring to the organization as a whole are important to your doctors, it’s fair to assume that any large scale change will trigger the question: What’s in it for me? Again, don’t leave this open to perception. Point out the benefits the new system can bring to them personally over the long term if they are just willing to stick with you through the difficult transition. Less time processing paper work and in turn more time at home with their families? Or, perhaps, for a smaller family owned practices, the ability to see more patients in a shorter period of time and, as a result, more money in their own pockets. Personal gain is always a best lever to pull when trying to drive mass change.
  • Be Interactive – or Better Yet, in Person: With the wealth of technology today and the bleak economic climate, organizations are looking for ways to do stuff better, faster cheaper. And, rightfully so. That said, don’t skimp on training. If you really want to drive adoption it is essential you invest the time and, dare I say it, dollars to ensure your providers are comfortable with the new system. An extensive kickoff training session is a good start – and the more hands on the better. It’s easy to check out when listening; you have no choice but to learn when doing. It’s also important that you build a balanced training plan. One-and-dones won’t work. Your training process should include multiple check-in points, an extensive set of training tools, and an easy to use channel of communication for continued support. Keep your providers focused on where they are in the learning process but also give them a glimpses into what’s next to reinforce why it’s important to master the task at hand today.
  • Make No Assumptions: When building out your training plan do not make any assumptions as to what is understood. Each and every person in your organization will have a different level of comfortability with technology in general, let alone a new platform. Don’t be afraid to state the obvious. Training should start at the most basic level and build off a demonstrated understanding. Remember, often, getting started is the hardest part. You’ve got to make your providers feel confident early – even if it is only using the most basic functions. Otherwise, they will become overwhelmed and the desire to adopt will wane. This type of negative first experience will undoubtedly increase resistance and make widespread adoption far more challenging to obtain.

Don’t Be Afraid to Compare: Healthy competition is good. In my case, it was the key driver. No one wants their skill set to become outdated or obsolete. Don’t be afraid to internally communicate what’s going on outside of your organization. Are your competitors ahead of you in the adoption curve? How many of your peers are fully electronic? What benefits are these organizations and their providers gaining from it? I can think of no more compelling argument for change than realizing the industry is moving along and will continue to so – with or without you.

Do you have more questions about your EMR transition options? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain’s consulting services team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your information management challenges.

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About the author

Michelle Urban

Michelle Urban is responsible for the product management and marketing of laboratory storage and workflow management solutions at Iron Mountain. She owns the development of specimen storage solutions from inception to execution, including market research and analysis, customer education and engagement, and go to market program development. In her previous role, Product Marketing Manager, Health Information Management, Michelle partnered with Linda Kloss, Founder of Kloss Strategic Advisors, to develop “Redefining the Role of Health Information Management in the New World of Information Governance,” a whitepaper that gained widespread popularity throughout the healthcare industry and even earned a coveted featured spot at the AHIMA National Conference 2014. Michelle earned her Bachelor’s Degree at Arcadia University and remains active in her local community through the Philadelphia Field Hockey Association (PFHA). She blogs on Health Information Management, Information Governance, Workflow Optimization, HIPAA Compliance, Specimen Storage, Good Laboratory Practices and BioRepositories. Follow me on Twitter @MichellePaster