Forget about the EHR, learn how to use a computer first


Zoolander. Dir. Ben. Stiller. 2001.

As I sat in an exam room last month awaiting my orthopedic surgery consult, my mind swelled with a lot of atypical patient questions, primarily due to the nature of my Healthcare IT background. Some of these thoughts included:

  • What kind of EHR are they using?
  • Do they have a patient portal?
  • Will they remember to give me a clinical summary?
  • Do all the departments use the same system? Or at least have interfaces to share this information?

Before I could even ask these questions or peek at what application they were using, we hit our first road block… the nurse could not log into her computer. It wasn’t because of a complex system setting or other unique set up, it was because of the dreaded…wait for it…CAPS lock! All of my questions were now replaced with wondering why standard computer training is not a part of EHR training?

Once she was able to login to her PC, she then had to login to a separate server to access the application which required another password. Again, she could not get logged in, this time because she couldn’t remember the password. After 15 minutes of this she finally gave up and did not document one thing electronically. It’s very easy to see that just a simple operation like logging into a system can create many minutes of waste for the staff and the patients, ultimately reducing the quality of care.

I have supported numerous EHR go-lives and not once do I remember a basic computer operation or typing class being part of the process. Many times during go-lives, the biggest obstacle I would face would be getting through to staff who were not comfortable using computers, let alone the EHRs. It’s one thing to train and support somebody on how to do their job using an EHR – but if they can’t even figure out how to login, click around, or type efficiently, you are going to have a very difficult time.

What can be done about this?

  • Conduct a computer skills aptitude evaluation to determine who would benefit from basic computer training
  • Implement SSO (Single Sign On) for applications so that once users login to their workstation, they can easily login to the EHR software as well
    • Badge readers can further streamline workflows because they allow users to swipe their ID cards to login and logout of systems.
    • This minimizes the amount of clicks and keystrokes required to access workstations and necessary applications
  • Condense the number of disparate systems throughout the organization to flatten the learning curve for new applications
    • This makes it much easier to share resources across an organization, enabling staff to more efficiently collect important patient information, and ultimately reduce patient wait times
    • Another side, but obvious benefit to this is a reduction in the unnecessary support and maintenance that comes from using one system in the hospital and another in the outpatient clinics
  • Simplify clinical documentation for your providers
    • Personalize the application to be as similar to your providers’ handwritten notes to make the transition easier for them
    • Consider incorporating some kind of voice recognition software, like Dragon, for providers and staff who are not efficient at typing

Although there’s a greater initial investment to train users on these basic skills, it will save everyone time in the long run and most importantly, it will increase the quality of care for your patients. Ultimately, isn’t that why we use computers in the first place?

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