Nearly all hospitals use an Electronic Medical Record system. Simply put, they can’t function well without one. Every vital piece of information from scheduling to medications to billing is handled in that EMR. Unfortunately, not every hospital loves their EMR setup.
Common complaints consist of anything from, “it’s too hard to find things” or “I spend too much time entering data” or “the information is never there when I need it.”
It’s very unfortunate when clinicians feel their workflow is impaired by their EMR, since an EMR is nothing more than a sophisticated communication tool.
So, what’s the problem? Could it be possible that the problem is not with the tool, but with the user and the process he or she follows?
The absolute best way for a hospital to address EMR issues is to establish a Process User Group. An ideal Process User Group would consist of a diverse group of representatives across departments. Meetings should be agenda-driven and geared around process-related problems within the hospital. Relevant questions should be asked, such as: “Is our registration process efficient?” and “Do our doctors document as quickly as they possibly can?” and “Have we removed the charge entry efforts from our clinical work?”
A focus should be implemented on streamlining the process while assessing how the EMR can aid with the data collection. When we allow the EMR to dictate our processes, we have not streamlined anything. Many EMRs are implemented with the vendor’s “best practice” in mind instead of truly evaluating the best workflow for your hospital—and when time is of the essence and deadlines are looming, you may not have a choice. But, once you’ve been using the system awhile, this is where the Process User Group begins to have real value.
When we look at any particular process, we can count the number of steps, the length of time required by each step, and tie both back to efficiency. Before we expect the EMR to solve all our problems, we should focus first on becoming efficient with our processes.
The Chairperson should help the attendees clearly discuss the workflow for each issue. EMR experts from IT should attend to validate if the system is setup to match the workflow.
Often, the workflow that is being followed is not in line with how the system is set up. By having representatives in attendance from all departments, people can discuss their expectations and educate everyone on how they use the EMR.
A Process User Group should typically expect to address only a few “issues” per meeting, as each one takes time. Advance data gathering by the Chairperson will help the meeting move more smoothly. Each issue will most likely be the direct result of poor workflow, a system setup issue, a retraining opportunity, or a system bug.
At the end of the day, issues don’t resolve themselves—they take time, effort, communication, and collaboration. If you want to remain smart and ahead of the curve, keep utilizing a Process User Group to address operational improvement long after your EMR is in place.
If you would like to discuss the implementation of a Process User Group, we’d like to hear from you. Contact us at Business.Services@Atlanticon.net.