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After months of preparation, the real test of your electronic health records (EHR) system is when your providers and nurses start using it in a live environment with real patients. It is normal to anticipate a few glitches. What is also normal is a temporary decrease in productivity. Despite these issues, a lot of negativity can be mitigated by preparing your staff to anticipate some challenges and frustration as they migrate to the new digital system.

GLS-EHR Launch.jpgThe first couple of months are always tough, and much of the clinical and support staffs’ time is spent getting up to speed on the nuances of the system. However, as soon as your staff gets comfortable and used to it, all areas start to run more smoothly. By following the four best practices listed below, you can get an entire staff onboard with the new EHR faster.

  1. Understand Your Leadership Structure and Hospital Culture

When approaching a Go-Live, understanding the culture and having leadership support goes a long way. Go-Lives are about instituting change, and change is hard. Leaders need to create a welcoming environment that express that the Go-Live teams are there to help them.

With a warm welcome from the leadership, including the clinicians, users are less resistant to change. A successful Go-Live is ultimately defined by the clinical and administrative staff both accepting the system. If leadership is welcoming of that change, regardless of the challenges, this attitude can set the tone for a successful launch.

It is important to set the right tone. It’s also important to set expectations by reinforcing this change is necessary and not optional.  While managing expectations it is important to understand it is normal to experience a few “bumps in the road” when transitioning to a new EHR system; it is also important to paint a picture of the expected end results and benefits to the system user, and ultimately improving patient care once the system is fully operational.

Examples of the wording that should be used to communicate should be something like “Go-Live teams will help navigate the new system so that we can bridge the gap between our old and new workflows.” Or “Go-Live teams will help us keep our vital focus solidly on patient care while we learn how to navigate a new, more efficient system.”

  1. Follow Methodology and Understand Scope

One of the hardest things to overcome is when the hospital staff can’t stay on track with established methodologies given by Go-Live teams. Everything must be done in a certain order, and a lot needs to get done in short time, so following the methodology is crucial. The Go-Live team method includes timeline and updates, and staff needs to partner with Go-Live teams to make that happen.

  1. Build a Well-Defined Escalation Plan, and Use Quick Reference Workflow Guides to Track Changes

For example; if the Go-Live team is assisting a doctor and a problem with navigation appears such as a drop-down box not working, how should the Go-Live teammate escalate this issue, which is beyond their ability to address? Questions like that need to be answered before they occur.

For example, regarding the issue above, it could get routed to the right place to determine if it’s a hardware or software issue, and then addressed immediately. This includes incorporating the resolution planning within the communication plan for the hospital resources. Additionally, by creating a Tip Sheet of The Day detailing fixes and known issues, subsequent shifts will know how to mitigate issues as well as escalation procedures.

A well-defined escalation plan also refers to helpdesk escalation procedures. Defining the types of users that will receive certain help desk calls, and mapping that process so that the proper help can be provided by the Go-Live team is critical.

Lastly, any changes made to the EHR since the training period should be provided in a quick reference sheet to all staff and the Go-Live team for reference.

  1. Go-Live on a Saturday

By starting the Go-Live event on a Saturday, your organization will have a full week to prepare for any last-minute surprises. Starting on Saturday also provides you most of the weekend (with less staff using the system) to assess the first day and make adjustments. Lastly, by having a Go-Live on a Saturday, you can frontload patient visits to make Saturday a light day in anticipation of the drop-in productivity associated with the pending launch.

After months of preparation, the real test of your electronic health records (EHR) system is the live application of that system with real people, both on the clinical and patient sides. Despite never being able to anticipate every single glitch, by following the best practice procedures above, you’re Go-Live can run as smoothly as possible, and any decrease in productivity will be mercifully short-lived.

Mark Dermott has more than 30 years of executive and leadership experience in the healthcare and staffing industry. Mark has held roles in homecare, healthcare IT consulting, and commercial staffing, including M&A, franchising, startups, and strategic alliances. Mark has a consistent record of enhancing sales, margin, and profit growth in both start-up and large businesses over $500M. Mark is currently the Go-Live Practice Vice-President for Leidos Health. In 5 years he has built the practice from the ground-up and delivered over 460 separate Go-Live projects and created a top ranked service by KLAS. Mark and his team are routinely implementing best practices for successful Go-Live while keeping ideal methodology, resource allocation, and budgeting in mind. In 2016 Mark and his team delivered over 63 separate go-lives projects with a year end KLAS score of 92.7.