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There is a unique opportunity with an electronic health record (EHR) implementation to increase physician engagement. That is getting physician involved and excited about new system changes. This program is known as a Specialty Training Specialists (STS) training program. Physician engagement is challenging, and having been a part of many implementations; I have witnessed, first-hand, the challenge of getting physicians engaged and registered for in-class training. The demands of their practice limit their availability in attending training only adds to their load. Also, there is often resistance related to their lack of control over this change. The STS program can reduce this tremendously by giving the physician a sense of ownership. This program seeks to engage physicians that are respected by their peers and have an excellent understanding of their specialty. Additional qualities have strong public speaking skills, comfort with technology, and an enthusiasm for the EHR. The STS program works to drive success building on these skills and then providing them with the tools essential to conduct the in-class training for their colleagues. These specialists will not only train the functionality of the new EHR; their experience and knowledge can provide an in-depth understanding of how the EHR works with their current workflow. The result is that physicians appreciate the ability to relate these two components for a successful training class. They leave feeling connected and confident that the training was appropriate.

Setting up a successful STS training program requires careful planning to assess and implement specific program needs and processes. These include; recruitment of the STS, participation contract or agreement, communication of the STS requirements to the STS providers, as well as the scheduling of the STS training sessions and teach backs. This is an excellent opportunity to develop a strong partnership with the Directors of Informatics and Physician Champions to identify, recruit, and engage the right candidates for this program. In selecting these individuals, communicating to and confirming with them their flexibility with training days, nights, and weekends, as well as the time involved in the pre-go live activities, will be a factor in the selection. Typically, a successful STS training program may require each STS candidate to complete appropriate e-learnings ahead of time, as well as attend a training session held by an Instructional Designer or Principal Trainer to understand better how to train their peers. Before gaining access to the EHR system, they may also need to take an assessment of their specialty before or during their teach-back session. Training tools are given to the STS candidate during the teach-back session to help ensure that they become a successful trainer.

Another key player in the program would be a qualified Program Coordinator. This individual can work with the key leaders of each facility, such as the CMO, Director of Informatics, and/or Site Manager in facilitating and coordinating the program. The Program Coordinator can assess the size of each facility, along with the number of specialty physicians, and determine the appropriate amount of STS trainers that will be needed. Also, it is best practice to assign a Credentialed Trainer or SuperUser to partner with the STS Physician. They are essential in utilizing the STS physician’s time most efficiently by assisting with session requirements such as printing materials, attendance, and classroom support.

A successful STS program can reduce the anxiety felt by the physicians during the pre-go-live phase of a new EHR Implementation. It is also an excellent opportunity to drive physician engagement for all that are involved and facilitate a successful go-live and implementation.

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