Juanisha “Juan” Johnson, Senior Managing Consultant, JHD Group
As millions of people do each year, I recently found myself in need of some care. Tired, sick, and barely able to breathe with a throat so swollen, I ventured to a nearby emergency room. But this isn’t a story about overcrowding or multiple-hour waits. I came in feeling sick but left feeling ill for people working a system that needed a remedy.
People are important. You see, they are the component that can exact change for your organization. My daily work is as a Senior Managing Consultant, guiding organizations through the process of EHR implementation and optimization. At the JHD Group, our methodology for success as it relates to EHR Optimization consists of four pillars:
- system set-up,
- governance, and
- you guessed it – people.
At every level of a healthcare organization are people who will make or break your EHR implementation, your patient care, your business. It also doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to know that the more people understand and feel that they can master their roles and grow into other ones makes for the kind of employees who stick around, who feel that your business is their own. In many senses, it is.
Late this particular Thursday evening, I was relieved to find the ER waiting room blessedly uncrowded. I was in so much pain and was having significant issues breathing. I was triaged and then, again, breathed (what little I could) a sigh of relief that I was taken to the back, where I waited. And waited. The nurse came in, did an evaluation, and then told me the doctor would be in. I waited 30 minutes. When the physician arrived, he said he wanted to order a strep test, and told me the nurse would be back in to do that. Another half-hour goes by and the nurse arrives to conduct the test. More than two hours after my visit began, the physician finally confirmed what I told them while being triaged: that I had a case of strep.
Now, I am in no way suggesting that a physician should simply take the advice of his/her patient – thorough evaluations are always necessary — but this experience was a good example of some important take-aways with EHR optimization and implementation:
- Staffing. The importance of enlisting the right people to your organization and its mission can not be underscored enough. Putting people in places where their skill-sets are well-used, valued, and sharpened can be key to keeping and growing them. If your healthcare institution is looking for more efficiency and streamlined processes, start with the people.
- Training. Was this R.N. trained in a standing order that patients presenting with my symptoms should have a strep test? Is his office supporting him with top-of-licensure training that not only allows him to grow as a medical professional, but also encourages him to perform tasks that would free up much-needed minutes for the physicians? RNs, LPNs, medical assistants – these are all professionals who can make the daily usage of EHRs something that positively impacts patient care.
- Improved face-to-face time. When properly utilizing people and their interface with technology, it can actually free a physician up to get that much-needed face time. More face time improves patient satisfaction and allows the physicians to do what they are best at: treating patients. Physicians often say laptops or pads get in the way of their patient interface. Could an R.N. or medical assistant help with the technology piece so that the patient gets all the benefits of both EHR optimization and old-fashioned person-to-person interaction?
- People living the processes. Optimization is something that has to be practiced every day. The care teams should be able to work within a process that is streamlined for everyone’s sake. Good work flows should decrease the time physicians need to document a visit, thereby increasing productivity. Properly investing in the people who are a committed part of that efficient approach is part of what makes the practice a success.
Easy fixes like standing orders (finger pricks for diabetics, throat swabs for those with sore throats, EKGs for cardiac patients) are not only intuitive, but they also enable and empower clinical staff to perform at their best and to do the patient care that they desired to do when they made a commitment to the healthcare industry. Physicians are freed up to focus on other parts of care, and patients have shorter wait times and a more efficient visit. These are the kind of things we of the JHD Group work with clients on, as we do our “boots on the ground,” “at-the-elbow” training and process implementation.
How was my sore throat? After a round of antibiotics and a visit to an ENT specialist, it was fine. But my visit to the ER that night confirmed what many of us preach all day long: the people component of your processes, whether it’s EHR implementation or ongoing care, is one of the most critical and important – it’s where your focus should be to effect change. Get the human part right, and ensure your machines support that.
Does your healthcare organization put its focus on people to maximize efficiency? Tell me about it by leaving your own comment.