Electronic Health Record (EHR): Resources? I Thought They Were People…
"We're a little short on resources and have to delay your EHR implementation a couple months."
One issue a professional comes in contact with while implementing the Electronic Health Record (EHR) is lack of "resources". When a software vendor says this, the conversation isn't usually about memory in a PC, or a train that goes directly to the gym. They mean people. Not just any people; technical people. People who keep an implementation on track, who can write programs and train professionals to use the EHR and manage to count beans so another dreaded occurrence doesn't occur - "overbudget!"
Sometimes the technical people who were counted on to do a job are busy with another job by the time it's time to bring the EHR on-line. As a result, the professionals who have been preparing for the change to the EHR and could feel a little stressed over delays. Consumers can't help but notice and possibly react to increased stress in a mental health organization.
There is a solution.
The salesperson probably indicated you'd be up and running lickety-split. During that conversation, they probably mumbled something about starting out with the "core system" or "out-of-the-box". The difficulty with this sort of understanding is that even starting up with that software configuration, problems can be twofold; people (mental health professionals and other organization staff) need to become acclimated to the biggest change they can be put through. An EHR implementation doesn't change much…just everything; and that "out-of-the-box" system probably doesn't exist to fit every organization. People can get a little nervous, and that affects their job. Software configuration and programming changes are a fact of life when software is implemented.
There is a solution…really.
The people guiding this process (usually software vendors) repeatedly run low on staff. Just like any other business, software vendors can be slaves to the next sale and cash flow problems, so they lay people off to run lean operations and POOF! They're "a little short on resources".
You've waited for it, here's a solution.
For many years hospital systems have relied on consultants to configure and design systems to fit their staff workflows, as well as train the end users and offer support (technical support often requires emotional support). Likewise, mental health and addictions treatment professionals are increasingly relying on consultants. The key is to hire a "hands-on" consultant who can guide the project conceptually, knows how EHR software works, and understands that an organization is made up of people, not just "resources", who need personal attention to understand and move forward with the technology they've spent a ton of money on. The consultant is generally less expensive than hiring technical staff because they're only around and aside from retainer agreements, getting paid when they are needed.
If the product purchased has a database or programming environment other than SQL (like 'Cache'), it's might be tough to have somebody available who's familiar with the software and the software/development environment. It's good to have somebody in your organization's court who has worked with that environment or better yet, the software you're purchasing. It's good to have an implementation consultant who participated in the purchasing organization's EHR selection process and knows the workflows of the professionals who'll be using the software…it helps in setting up the software with efficiency in mind.
There's good news.
The solution I promised? There are a number of people in the consulting business now who have the skills in question. Remember at the top of the page where I wrote that software companies like to lay people off when sales are slow or cash flow is tight? The folks who are out of work still have technical skills and fit very special needs required for implementing and supporting software. Whereas they may not have fit a software organization well, a project is much different than a job. It's gratifying to some folks when their efforts have a beginning, middle and an end, so they tend to be pretty good associates.