Do not leave empathy, both for yourself and your staff, out of the equation when implementing an electronic health record (EHR). A new EHR software system is a major undertaking. Without the support of everyone within the organization, things can go in the wrong direction quickly.
Put people first
Putting people as a priority within any significant organizational change increases the chances for success. Leavitt’s classic Diamond Model illustrates the interdependence of four components within every organization: People, technology, structure, and tasks. Over time, the model has evolved to “people, technology, and tasks.”
Introducing new EHR software is a modern example of Leavitt’s insight. However, the implementation of a new core technology, such an EHR system, brings fear to many a staff member. Empathy and understanding before, after, and during EHR adoption will give the transition a solid foundation.
Remember the EHR software benefits
Going from paper to an EHR system is an open-and-shut decision for most mental health providers hoping to increase office efficiency, organize billing and payments, secure data, and simplify the patient experience for clients. Implementation, though, comes with challenges around training, data transfer, and interoperability. While it’s all worth in the long run, maintaining good morale and participation among staff is crucial to the success of the project.
We suggest these strategies for taking an empathetic approach when introducing a new EHR system.
Before the new EHR software: Put your ducks in a row
Before you shop, invite the practice staff to give feedback on what features and functions are needed from a new EHR. This discussion must be open to both the benefits and the challenges involved. Otherwise, the individuals tasked with the extra hours of training – plus everything else involved with the transition – may feel marginalized. Such sentiments can make it difficult to complete a successful migration.
Consider the following areas of focus:
- Cover the advantages at the end of the EHR implementation process.
- Listen to everyone’s concerns and provide sympathetic support.
- Provide a clear schedule of events with assigned tasks for the implementation.
Training with people in mind
Training staff for the new EHR software is vital to creating and maintaining a healthy workflow after implementation. Imagine feeling nervous about an initial mental health appointment, while office staff are stumped by the new system. Avoid giving clients any more obstacles to mental health treatment by supporting your staff with thorough EHR training.
Train a small group first
The implementation team from your chosen EHR system will have training options available. However, the ultimate decision on how staff members are trained is up to your practice.
Keep in mind how your practice operates. Who are the most appropriate staff members to get the initial training? Do they have the right skills and relationships with the rest of the team to be effective internal trainers? How will they share their new knowledge with the others? Who is going to need to be trained first, and which areas of the new EHR are the most important to learn?
Check out our article on EHR training for more info.
Support your EHR leaders
Some individuals within your organization will need extra training from the EHR vendor in order to master different processes. For example, the head of billing will need to master the new billing system. In addition, having at least one person on staff with an overall, in-depth EHR training will soften the frustration when challenges arise.
These folks will need extra support, and maybe extra incentive, to pass along encouragement and training to the rest of your staff. Conflict due to a lack of support or poor communication will hamper the process.
Work as a team
Many steps are involved with an EHR implementation, and the process is lengthy. Check out our suggestions for a smooth EHR transition. Establishing a solid timeline and clear roles throughout the process will go a long way. Encourage teamwork and stress reducers along the way.
For example, during the data migration and integration stages, provide your team with some incentives. A catered lunch for everyone or gift cards to a local restaurant will help staff feel appreciated. Map out the most challenging phases and plan for some healthy, recharging rewards.
Don’t forget your clients
Give clients the heads up when there’s an impending EHR implementation. Consider sending out an email with a brief explanation for the upcoming change. Ask for patience as things transition and help your clients understand the advantages a new EHR will provide. Give them access to contact information for problems and concerns for an added sense of support.
Offering compassion and empathy to people in need is the core of the mental health profession. Rely on these skills with EHR implementation. Give everyone a chance to be heard, along with a steady stream of encouragement and understanding.
Valant provides software implementation support from behavioral healthcare experts. Our support team understands the mental healthcare industry and can help set your practice up for success. With live training, designated support representatives, and a robust knowledgebase, your organization will hit the ground running.