Physician Engagement Vital to EMR Implementation

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , April 14, 2011

The Inland Northwest Health system found a way to engage physicians while  implementing a common hospital information system across 34 mostly independent hospitals in Washington state and Idaho. The result has been a regional data repository system with standardized data selection, under a Meditech Information Technology system of San Antonio, TX, with improved efficiency and lowered costs, according to Thomas Fitz, CEO of Northwest Health Services in Spokane, WA.

As the health system began implementing the regional data collection service, the concerns of physicians were paramount, says Fitz. When the program was launched, 100 doctors wanted to meet him. He was reluctant. To Fitz's surprise, the physicians told how they wanted to become integrated into a data collection system, relating their own "horror stories" of hundreds of thousands of dollars lost in investments, "systems down 18% of the time" and staffs simply tiring of trying to manage their EMR systems.

As for Eastham, he refused to give up on EMR, and retrenched, hiring an outside consultant, Anthelio Healthcare Solutions, of Dallas, TX, which specifically worked directly with staff, educating them about the new system, and, most importantly, spending time with them. If physicians had a "problem," the specialists visited them, Eastham says.

"There was a SWAT team, and (computer) fixes were made on the spot. It was costly but you can't have our medical staff not accessing the system," Eastham says. "We developed a schedule for training; they were very time-consuming sessions." At general staff meetings, the consultants would "walk (the physicians) through the system. Once they got used to it, all the bugs were worked out,"Eastham says, "And as those got more familiar with it, they loved it."

Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.
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