Electronic Health Record (EHR) divorce rates are on the rise. Although the promise of EHRs is expected to transform healthcare, many hospitals and healthcare organizations have expressed frustration over issues with usability, interoperability and poor system design, causing many to go in search of a new vendor.
When functioning correctly, EHRs have the potential to deliver better, safer and higher quality healthcare. While implementation is often what healthcare organizations focus on, true transformation only comes with EHR adoption, which involves the continuous process of keeping users informed and engaged, providing innovative ways to help them become proficient in new tasks, measuring changes in critical outcomes and striving to sustain that performance in the long-term.
Drivers of EHR Adoption
Adoption is a process that happens over time. When organizations are able to sustain that high level of adoption long-term, they can achieve optimization and begin to reap the benefits of their EHR including increased productivity, timesaving workflows and reduced costs. There are four key drivers to adoption:
1. Engaged and clinically focused leaders.
Successful and sustainable adoption begins with leaders who effectively articulate how EHR adoption advances patient care and the organization’s mission, inspire end-users to own the transition, govern participation in all adoption efforts and drive clinical involvement in the design of the system to support best practice workflows. These leaders ensure processes are in place to help end-users become proficient, track progress and commit to a high-level of EHR adoption for the long-term. While many organizations designate the chief information officer (CIO) or IT department to champion these efforts, research shows that clinical leaders such as a chief medical information officer (CMIO) foster the highest level of end-user engagement and adoption.
2. Targeted education.
EHR adoption is also determined by how end-users are educated. Rather than relying on feature-function training, organizations achieve end-user proficiency in the application when education provides hands-on, scenario-based learning that is tailored to best practice workflows and individual roles. This education also assesses end-users’ ability to perform tasks critical to their workflows, and is readily accessible, repeatable and consistently deployed across the organization to support existing and new employees.
3. Performance metrics.
The success of engaged leadership and education depends on the ability to capture key performance metrics. Organizations which successfully achieve and sustain adoption continually measure key indicators of engaged leadership and end-user proficiency to evaluate where they are in the adoption lifecycle, and to reinforce or adapt their efforts to support long-term adoption. For instance, these organizations track the effectiveness of leadership governance and communication, as well as areas of greatest education need by individual, role and department. Performance metrics drive process improvements and are critical to achieving desired clinical and financial outcomes.
4. Sustainment of adoption initiatives.
EHR adoption is a fluid state and the work to sustain it does not stop after go-live. Organizations that sustain adoption continue to support engaged leadership, education, and performance measurement to overcome key events that erode adoption including application upgrades, workflow enhancements, leadership and staffing changes and new government regulations. Organizations that achieve long-term adoption continue to modify and reinforce their adoption efforts to sustain optimal use of the EHR.
While all four drivers must be addressed to achieve successful EHR adoption, engaged and clinically-focused leadership is the first and most critical step for optimization. And research shows that organizations that understand this have better success than those which simply distribute news and information about it. Without engaged and clinically focused leadership to lead the charge, adoption begins to erode, and the rest of the steps cannot be achieved successfully.
Because engaged leaders are well-informed and aligned in how they communicate the value of the EHR, they empower clinicians to make decisions about how the EHR should be implemented and used, understand the degree of change required and set priorities appropriately. Most importantly, they stay engaged for the life of the application.
While most organizations have implemented an EHR, a high percentage still struggle to use their system to improve clinical and financial outcomes. But when healthcare organizations achieve high levels of adoption, they experience less resistance from clinicians, fewer errors, higher productivity, reduced costs and less stress.
This article originally appeared here.