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Keeping Up with New EHR Features — When to Get More Training

EHR systems are constantly being updated to provide new features and improve existing features. However, given the complexity of these systems, the updates may not be apparent unless they directly affect your workflow. As a result, many practices just keep doing the same thing they have been doing, even though a more streamlined alternate approach may exist. Here are some tips to make sure you continue to get the most out of your EHR.

    1. Make a point to review the list of new features when a system update is made. In most cases, EHR vendors will publish a list of enhancements and changes they have made in an update bulletin or communication. Ideally, at least one person in your practice with clinical experience should be reviewing the updates or should at least have a good understanding of your clinical documentation processes.
      • With ASP systems, in which the updates are automatically made on a remote server, this may take a little bit more effort to keep updated — there may be no direct disruption to your practice. One strategy for dealing with this situation is to assign a staff member to routinely monitor changes that have been made in the past month.
    2. Ensure that your “super users” continue to receive updated training on how to use the system as frequently as possible — at least on an annual basis. This training does not have to involve trainers onsite in your practice, and could take place through user groups meeting or using online training tools.
      • For those not familiar with the super user concept, these are individuals who have a deeper knowledge of the system, and have received more training. Typically these users serve as troubleshooters for problems within a practice before escalating the problems to the vendor. It is recommended that at least one of the super users in the practice be a clinician.
    3. Have regular in-services where super users can train the rest of the practice members on how to use new functionality, and to field any questions or assist with problems that haven’t been taken care of as part of the daily operations of the practice. Just as with clinical skills, technology skills need to be maintained and new knowledge shared.
    4. For every major update release, make sure that everyone in the practice receives a minimum amount of training on the changes to ensure that they can be effectively and appropriately used.
    5. Develop a process for training new staff and clinicians. Staff and clinician turnover is inevitably part of running a practice; however, many practices fail to train new staff members on the system, assuming they will just gradually figure it out. Even though new users may not have to deal with chart conversion, they are still learning an entirely new system. This is equivalent to being thrown into a pool without being taught how to swim. Even if there are a number of experienced swimmers in the water, this is prone for disaster. Take the time to do a basic orientation and more advanced training with new users. The alternative will negatively impact practice operations and could have significant financial and patient safety implications.

One of the consistent observations we encounter at AmericanEHR is the importance of training when implementing and effectively using an EHR system. Dr Brookstone, in his recent blog post The Impact of Inadequate Training on Use of EHRs, highlights the importance of training by sharing comments received from members who have completed our EHR Satisfaction Survey. Our recent report The Correlation of Training Duration with EHR Satisfaction: Implications for Meaningful Use also explores the value of training. Continued training is an essential component of maintaining the efficiency and safety of your practice.

This post is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the American College of Physicians (ACP). ACP does not endorse a specific EHR brand or product and ACP makes no representations, warranties, or assurances as to the accuracy or completeness of the information provided herein.

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