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Through all of the planning and preparation that goes into an Electronic Health Record (EHR) implementation, EHR communication is often overlooked and undervalued. With everyone focused on delivering the system, building applications, testing hardware and validating workflows, end user preparedness, outside of training, can be overlooked.

Sure, they’re going to be trained on the system, but it’s important to remain engaged with end users in the months and weeks leading to go-live, but also beyond go-live. In many aspects, post-live communication is more vital to day-to-day operations throughout the organization.

In this post, we’ll discuss the primary types of communication that must be considered, carefully planned for and thoughtfully executed to serve end users best as they prepare for and live in the new world of the EHR.

ehr-communication-optimum-healthcare-itTypes of EHR Communication

  • Internal Marketing, pre- go-live
    • Transitioning to an EHR is daunting for everyone. It’s exciting and new, but it is scary. It’s a daunting task for leadership and project teams, but for end users, this new technology will completely disrupt their professional lives – especially those that have never used the technology.
    • The merits of the new system, how it will help them in the long run, and how it will benefit patients must all be sold to end users who, in most cases, have always worked a certain way – without technology. The system must be sold to them because there will be resistance, some kicking and screaming, all the way through go-live.
  • Change Communications
    • Don’t listen to anyone that tells you that you’ll be able to relax once the system goes live. If anything, the importance of clear, concise communication escalates exponentially after go-live.
    • Technology, by its nature, evolves. And electronic health records are not exempt. One of the primary features of the technological age we live in is that the systems we use can, and will, be updated.
    • When changes are made to the system, there must be a coordinated Change Management procedure featuring robust communication to all impacted employees.
  • System Updates/Downtime Messaging
    • EHR’s and the infrastructure they run on are fallible. No matter how well the system is designed and built, there will be issues and downtimes that negatively impact end users, and if not planned for accordingly, patients.
    • System Update (SU) and Downtime procedures must be carefully developed and communicated throughout the organization to ensure that employees know the protocols that are in place in the event of a system outage.
    • Additionally, communications processes and protocols must be installed throughout the organization to ensure that vital information can be delivered to end users crisis situations – and that end users can communicate what’s happening on the ground with leadership and IT.
    • Ultimately the goal here is to ensure that clinicians can continue to care for their patients in the event of a system outage and proper communication is key.
  • Targeted Messaging
    • This comes down to a simple realization – clinicians are extremely busy people that don’t have time to wade through waves of content to find what pertains to them.
    • Messaging designed with a specific user group in mind that includes a concise, actionable message works best. Think providers or nurses.
    • This audience also benefits from a well-known or trusted sender. They don’t pay attention to mass emails from generic inboxes.  Their bosses, Chief Medical Officers, Chief Nursing Officers, or a department head usually garner the most respect, and the most attention, in clinical circles.
  • Patient Communication
    • This change is disruptive for patients as well, especially during go-live. Taking the time to thoughtfully communicate the change to patients will help ease the transition for them as well.
    • They’ll have questions. Why is my doctor on that computer so much?  Is my medical information online?  Is it secure?
    • Without going into the minutia around the EHR, device integration, real-time data, secure servers, firewalls, data centers, etc. – take the time to explain the change to patients, at least at a high level. They will appreciate it.
  • myChart & Meaningful Use
    • On the surface, Meaningful Use and MyChart communication don’t immediately come to mind when thinking of the EHR communications plan. They should, though.  Soon after go-live, the focus shifts to stabilization and optimization, which includes myChart and Meaningful Use.
    • While they’re paired together here because they’re add-ons that don’t necessarily fall under the initial communications scope, these two are very different and need their own comprehensive communications plans and delivery methods as the content, audience, and implications are drastically different.

While not explicitly responsible for building or activating the EHR system that will revolutionize your organization, it’s important to have a person or team dedicated to communicating with your end users – at all stages of the system’s life cycle.  Uninformed end users are disgruntled end users, and it pays to have communications people that have experience with IT and EHR delivery as it is a world unto itself.

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