Impact Insights

Physician Engagement for EHR Implementation

Tonya Edwards

Physicians, like most people, feel overwhelmed by and resistant to change.  EHR implementation, whether moving from paper to EHR or from one EHR to another is a major change for physicians.  Given the milieu of healthcare reform, it is just one of many changes physicians are facing today. Physician engagement for EHR implementation is crucial.

Engaging physicians can be a daunting task.  But since physicians drive 75 to 85 percent of all healthcare quality and cost decisions, if a health care system plans to successfully implement an EHR and drive benefits from that EHR, physicians need to be on board.

Employing physicians in and of itself does not secure alignment or engagement, nor is compensation one of the most important drivers for physicians.  Engaging physicians in an EHR implementation and ultimately achieving physician adoption requires a thorough understanding of the stages of change and a robust strategy to move physicians smoothly through the change curve.

Following these steps can help you successfully engage physicians in your EHR project:

1.       Discover common purpose – To create a sense of urgency around the change it important to have honest and convincing dialog about what is happening in the marketplace and with your competition.  Different areas in the organization may be more ready for change than others.  A Readiness Assessment can help to identify areas that need more significant focus to develop trust and a sense of common purpose.  Don’t rush this step.  Common purpose and trust are the key stones to ultimate success.

2.       Form a leadership coalition – Identify influential physician leaders who are early adopters to assist in developing and delivering the vision for change including articulation of the “what’s in it for me” for physicians.

3.       Develop a specific physician engagement plan and stick to it – Physicians will need to be deeply involved in the EHR implementation process, providing feedback around order sets, documentation tools, access, policies, testing and training.  Develop a robust plan for physician involvement in these activities as well as regular communication and plans to address common concerns and anxieties. Don’t let the swirl of activity around EHR implementation distract you from your plan.  Stick to it.

4.       Identify physician champions – These front line leaders role is to help deliver the physician engagement plan and act as subject matter experts. .  Provide them with the support and training they will need. Recognize and reward these and others instrumental in making change happen. The team should include representation from all areas, have a well-defined role and require commitment to staying the course.

5.       Create short term wins– Look for low risk, high reward areas to create quick wins.  Implementing these will serve to further engage providers.  Capture data around key performance indicators to demonstrate success.

6.       Focus on training and give physicians time to explore the new solution – The importance of robust role-based training cannot be over stressed.  Physicians should have access to practice the new skills they have learned and the opportunity to personalize their tools before go live.  Don’t expect physicians to be 100% productive out of the gates.  Build in contingency time so that physicians can learn and explore the new tool without too much pressure.

7.       Build adoption – Once the EHR is implemented, talk about progress every chance you get.  Tell success stories about the change process.  Publicly recognize physician leaders instrumental in achieving success.  Encourage physicians to make suggestions for continuing to improve the EHR and develop a physician advisory group to vet those requests.

Change is hard, and perhaps even more difficult for physicians, who are experiencing burn out at high levels because of the sheer number of changes they’ve been facing over the past few years.  Inspirational speeches, leadership appointments without specific roles, responsibilities and training and financial incentives are simply not effective to drive engagement and adoption. Health systems need to build trust, develop common purpose, and partner with physicians to not only improve the lives of patients but also improve the lives of those who serve them, including physicians.  Having a specific strategy to gain buy-in and drive engagement enables organizations to achieve success.

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