“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.Read more →
“What happened?” asked the person on the left.
The person on the right replied, “I forgot my appointment!”
Whether you’re a consumer or a professional, you’ve likely been on one side or the other of this short conversation. Clearly, the reminder (if one’s being used) didn’t work. That signals a breakdown of marketing that can likely be improved by the Electronic Health Record (EHR).
The two most common methods of decreasing the occurrence of this conversation are (1) the telephone reminder and (2) a reminder note strategically mailed to the consumer to arrive a day or two before the appointment. The reminder needs to come close enough to the appointment that the significance doesn’t fade from memory…I read years ago that point is around 72 hours…people forget, even though they’ve been reminded. When this sort of marketing is successful, two things improve: (1) No-Shows are decreased, and (2) if a person needs to cancel or reschedule their appointment, time is available to fill the appointment with a consumer calling in at the last minute for an appointment.
So, these reminders are marketing tools because they show the professional cares enough to reach out to the consumer to assure they get the care they’ve asked for. You may ask how the EHR fits into this equation…I’m sure you have at least an inkling of how this works, and it doesn’t hurt to keep this sort of thing in mind as business processes evolve.
Appointment scheduling in the EHR is a collaborative effort among professionals (or their front desk person) and consumers, and that’s easy with the computer sharing what dates and times are available for the professional. Once an appointment is agreed upon, most EHRs are set up with the capability to both schedule an alert for a telephone call to be made and to print various reports, including a print run for appointment reminder letters to be sent to consumers that day.
If your EHR isn’t doing these things, consider the business angle: For the cost of a recouping a few no-shows, connecting with a professional (like yours truly) to set up this sort of marketing capability has a significant long-term payoff. Efficiencies gained for larger organizations should be significant.
Now, let’s talk about electronic communication between a referrer and referee. Referrals from primary physicians to Mental Health professionals assure the consumer gets integrated care. Integrated care is a buzz-phrase right now, and it makes sense, as we are all connected, body, mind and spirit.
The EHR can have a referrer portal as well as a consumer portal. The referrer portal is important because it helps the referrer track treatment in the external organization. After all, referrals are made with a specific purpose in mind, and if a consumer is being treated for anxiety or depression the referrer will need to know what’s happened since the last time the consumer was seen.
Consumer portals are a really handy method for a consumer to track their medications, appointments, bill, and other interactions with the professional. This is an attractive feature for the consumer and in some cases that can be good marketing (or perhaps some folks will agree that I’m reaching into the ozone with this concept).
These aspects of marketing are important ways the EHR can help the professional and the consumer. They’re not the only options available with this powerful tool. Newsletters can be generated and managed for a professional’s consumer base, reminders and holiday greetings can be managed by the software, and a ton of other possibilities can come into play offering better service to consumers, which equates to good marketing.
A always, more to come…Read more →