Implementing a new electronic medical record (EMR) system is a long and difficult process. It requires employee training across all levels, countless hours of engineering, and a lengthy trial and error period. Nevertheless, it is a necessary step towards modernization that all industries must achieve to operate efficiently. The healthcare field, expectedly, is no different.
Although the cost and time requirements to fully integrate an EMR system are hefty, the benefits offered are counted in dozens. Not to mention how hospitals can use this transition to capitalize on their pre-existing informatics teams. For those unfamiliar, these are the clinical experts who handle information engineering that pertains to the healthcare field. Without them, medical records, electronic filing systems, clinical data, and much more would be nonexistent.
According to Loretta Gallagher, the owner of Gallagher Associates, there are different ways to utilize informatics teams while adopting a new EMR system. These alternatives depend on how the EMR build and training teams will interact with the informatics professionals. The most common approaches, however, can be divided into three categories showcased below.
Infusing the Teams
The easiest way to facilitate a productive environment is to merge the informatics and EMR-related teams. This happens when one lets both teams essentially champion the new EMR system. Although the informatics team will carry the authoritative role and likely oversee training, they will not create lesson plans or deliver classes but instead be the clinical content experts. Additionally, taking this route will turn one’s informatics workers into the champions who can perform frequent workflow check-ups on the new system. Meaning, they can provide clinical readiness tests as they fully comprehend the newly infused workflows.
Inserting the Informatics Teams Within the EMR Teams
The next option revolves around a similar merge between the two teams. This time, however, the informatics professionals will fold under the EMR teams who will have the authority. According to Loretta Gallagher, this option carries an equal number of advantages and disadvantages. First, the obvious benefit is the knowledge that this group will have regarding the current state. Also, the informatics professionals that are working under the EMR teams will generally become more robust.
As far as the shortcomings go, individual values could take a hit. After all, isolating informatics workers to a build team will severely impact the work they do. The hospital that implements this approach may need to look for new informatics workers. Once they start working under the EMR team, someone will have to assume their roles. This is because the informatics jobs do not just disappear and must be done by equally capable professionals.
Lastly, as Loretta Gallagher states, hospitals could simply keep the EMR build and informatics teams completely separate. They would have no overlapping duties, and all of their jobs would be unrelated to one another. For instance, the EMR team could create the system and put it to use. Informatics teams would subsequently only deal with the finalized product and give feedback. Although this is a good way to separate duties, it fails to deliver the necessary communication levels. After all, EMR teams and informatics professionals must discuss important details about the workflow. Doing so will minimize the number of design changes that need to happen after the system goes live.
Knowing What to Choose
After overseeing many EMR system implementations, Loretta Gallagher focuses on the most advantageous ways to include informatics teams. To that end, looking at something like separating the teams would not be a solid solution. After all, the goal is to capitalize on these highly trained professionals, not put a wall between them and the EMR build teams. Thus, looking at some variation of the first two approaches is advised.
To ensure that the maximum efficiency and success are achieved, communication is essential. That means that diverse teams should continuously interact throughout all stages of the process. For example, the EMR and informatics teams should join forces to build, implement, and train people on the new system. That way, existing employees can become the champions of the system and help others in the future. Not to mention that the entire transition into a modernized operation will be much smoother when people work together.