Ready or not – here it comes!
Any change brings both excitement and trepidation. This is especially true for operational leaders and end users of a new EHR system. Engaging operations promotes long term success of the project. While change is hard, it becomes more acceptable when there is a sense of control or input into the change rather than allowing it to happen organically.
The Information Services (IS) department has the technical skills and knowledge necessary to implement the new system, but they may not have complete knowledge of the operational workflows and design requirements. It is important for the IS project team to understand high-risk workflows, business needs and key operational metrics in order to successfully implement the EHR. Operational leaders and staff are the experts in their workflows and business requirements and will have a vested interest in how the system will be used on a daily basis. Involving operations early and often helps ensure the project is both highly visible and a top priority for success.
10 Ways to Engage Operations:
1. Include a Project Manager in the project leadership. They are dedicated to guiding operations through the project as a liaison to the IS project team. The IS project team is dependent on information from operations in order to move forward with the project. A Project Manager can plan for and monitor the operational tasks.
2. Operations should provide criteria for a successful project outcome. These could include elements of patient safety, revenue integrity, meeting of regulatory requirements, etc.
3. Identification of operational pain points in current systems or workflows will enable the IS project team to configure the new EHR more efficiently. Not all pain points are system related making it imperative to review operational workflows outside of the EHR for improvement as well.
4. Insist on operational membership on all project governing and steering committees. There will be a multitude of decisions around scoping and configuration. Awareness of competing priorities and knowledge around how much time/effort the operational resources have available for the EHR project is important for success.
5. Work with operations to develop and validate a “watch list” of items to monitor during the EHR project. Examples are pain points and tricky workflows from the current system, issues that have come up on similar projects and items specific to the vendor.
6. Operational Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are required for each area that is impacted by the EHR project. The SMEs will be contacts for the IS project team for questions, workflow validation and application level decisions. It is critical that they are empowered to make decisions specific to their areas. Projects can be delayed when all decisions are required to go to governing committees.
7. Include operations in validation of complex scenario test scripts for integrated testing. This can help ensure that what the IS project team has configured meets the needs of operations.
8. Involve operations in the planning and development of timelines for training. They will help teams be able to account for competing priorities when developing the schedules for training. There is likely a methodology they have utilized in the past that involved training the entire organization. Lessons learned can be leveraged for the EHR training program. Operational leaders can also ensure that staff get signed up for and attend training sessions.
9. Operations should develop a Super User program. Super Users are operational staff and are utilized during and after the project. They assist with training, go live support and function as specialists for their areas. Super Users will be liaisons to the IS department going forward as there will be a need for ongoing support when new staff join, when updates are applied to the system, when workflows are optimized, when regulatory requirements change, etc.
10. Operations is an integral part of go live planning and beyond. They have awareness around competing priorities and can provide guidance on dates for go live. While the EHR vendor may provide guidelines for support models, the organization will likely have specific location or personnel issues that will require modified support needs. Finally, there will be a need for ongoing governance related to prioritization of optimization requests and decisions around timing, scope and training for future changes to the EHR.
Balancing Operations and IS Department Requirements
While the EHR should meet operational workflow needs and business requirements of the entire organization, there are often unique requests by individual departments. Operations and IS departments should work together to determine how much standardization the various departments can handle. A highly individualized EHR can be resource intensive when system updates are applied. Compromise and understanding are only possible when operations is fully engaged and working alongside the IS department on any EHR project.