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The use of healthcare technology is increasing at a staggering pace. Between 2008 and 2015, we experienced a nine-fold increase in the use of basic EHR systems. However, despite a commitment to new technologies, many organizations are not seeing the expected outcomes from their EHR implementations.

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An EHR offers the opportunity for improved quality of care, new administrative efficiencies and valuable insight into a rich set of data, but adoption of the technology requires significant changes in workflow, processes and human behaviors.

The four drivers of EHR adoption

Organizations with the highest levels of EHR adoption show us how other health organizations can achieve improved outcomes. Our research in this area clearly demonstrates four main drivers for EHR adoption: engaged leadership, end-user proficiency, performance metrics and the importance of long-term process sustainment.

Many organizations use an EHR, but the level of system adoption remains low, and they fail to see improved clinical and financial outcomes. When healthcare organizations achieve high EHR adoption levels, they experience less clinician resistance, fewer errors, higher productivity, reduced costs and less stress.

1. Engaged and focused clinical leaders

Successful EHR adoption begins with leaders who effectively communicate how EHR benefits the overall organization. Leaders should inspire end users to own the transition, monitor participation in all adoption efforts and drive clinical involvement in the design of the system to support best practice workflows.

These leaders commit to a high level of EHR adoption for the long term, ensuring processes are in place to help end users become proficient and tracking progress. While many organizations designate the chief information officer (CIO) or IT department to champion these efforts, research shows that we need all leaders, especially clinical leaders, to foster the highest level of end-user engagement and adoption.

“The simulations that we reviewed are outstanding. We had actual (vendor) representatives help with the review and they couldn’t say enough about how good they were and how good a tool (PromisePoint) will be.”
— Kody Nelson, St. John’s Medical Center

2. Targeted EHR training for proficient users

EHR adoption is highly dependent on how end users are educated. Rather than relying on feature-function training, organizations achieve end-user proficiency when they provide hands-on, scenario-based learning that is tailored to best practice workflows and individual roles. This education also assesses end users’ ability to perform tasks critical to their workflows and is readily accessible and consistently deployed across the organization to support existing and new employees.

“Physicians are particularly happy with the experience: courses look professional, amount of time learning seems appropriate, and easy to access. Working with Knowledge Solutions has been a positive experience: you are the first vendor who works faster than we do, response to special requests has been quick, and The Breakaway Method is very accommodating.”
— Boris Gorokhovsky, Phymed Management

3. Performance metrics

The success of engaged leadership depends on the ability to capture and improve key performance metrics. Organizations that successfully achieve and sustain EHR adoption continually measure key indicators of engaged leadership and end-user proficiency to evaluate where they are in the adoption life cycle. For instance, these organizations track the effectiveness of leadership governance and communication, as well as areas of greatest educational need by individual, role and department. Performance metrics drive process improvements and are critical to achieving desired clinical and financial outcomes.

4. Long-term sustainment of processes

EHR adoption is a fluid state, and the work to sustain it does not stop after go-live. Organizations that sustain adoption continue to support engaged leadership, education and performance measurement to overcome key events that erode adoption, including application upgrades, workflow enhancements, leadership and staffing changes and new government regulations. Organizations that achieve long-term adoption continue to modify and reinforce their adoption efforts to sustain optimal use of the EHR.

“Breakaway Learning has allowed us to accomplish in only six months what would have taken us years to do on our own. Their expertise in healthcare , rapid eLearning development and the responsiveness from every member of their team enabled us to accomplish our goals. In turn, we’ve been able to pass along the value to our clients so that they may better serve their patients and communities.”
— Samantha Stark, Strata Decision Technology