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Designing an Effective Strategic Training Plan to Improve EMR Adoption

Guest Post
By Dr. Greg Forzley and Mr. Tony Onorad

As health care organizations of all sizes struggle to meet the challenge of electronic health record adoption and meaningful use, one recurring theme is common: How to effectively educate learners on both the new and / or adapted processes resulting from the implementation of the new system and the necessary skills to use the new technologies in order to efficiently execute those processes. Physicians in particular may feel challenged to learn how to use a particular EHR or EMR with the skill and finesse needed to balance patient care activities with the capture of information in the electronic record.

As Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), succinctly surmised in an April 2009 interview:

“Simply having an EMR system isn’t enough. We need to ensure that physicians can actually use it.”

It is important to understand the distinction between an EMR and an EHR. A clearer definition can be found in the April 28, 2008, report to the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT, “Defining Key Health Information Technology Terms:”

With the recent Federal legislation, it is clear that the focus will be on EHRs and their ability to share information securely across health organizations. In order to meet meaningful use standards and, more importantly, in order to provide more efficient and safer patient care, EHR users must be equipped with the knowledge that they need to successfully use any system they be required to use for patient care.

A key component to an EHR’s success is a clearly defined, measurable, and effective strategic knowledge improvement plan. This is not just an important component of the initial implementation, but critical to the long-term success and vibrant use of EMR technology.

Five major pieces to successful strategic knowledge improvement plans include:

I. Successfully Managing Change
a.  Answer “Why are we doing this?”
b.  Answer “What’s in it for me?”
c.  Articulate the benefits and features.
d.  Purposefully review and communicate the process, including timelines.
e.  Set realistic expectations (we’re not flying to the Moon on Day One).

II. Implementing Readiness and Skills Assessments
a.  Assess current, basic PC and Windows skill levels (not everyone knows what a radio button or a “right” click are). Don’t take the learner’s report of skill level without an assessment verification tool.
b.  Ensure that all learners’ basic skill sets (i.e., Windows and PC) meet a minimum proficiency level prior to go-live training.

III. Designing Knowledge Improvement Approach
a.  Key concept: Implement role-based training – you’re not training your users to be EMR experts; you’re training your learners to provide safer, more efficient patient care using a new system.
b.  Think long term: What is a sustainable model that will yield the most for a diverse set of learners?
c.  Evaluate your options carefully, understanding the cost, implications, and necessary support.
d.  Be prepared to stay in the game: Learning doesn’t stop at go-live. Now what?
e.  How are you going to determine the level of support and communication needed for new processes, system “fixes,” upgrade training, etc.?

IV. Assembling Your Knowledge Improvement Team
a.  Who will train your end users?
b.  What adult learning facilitation skills do they have?
c.  Who will design your knowledge improvement tools (classroom curriculum, eLearning, Knowledge Banks, mLearning, etc.)?
d.  Think long-term: Do you need a full EHR training team, comprised of full-time employees? Is relying solely upon consulting talent wise? A blended approach?

V. Evaluate, Measure, and Realign Your Strategy and Tools
a.  Evaluate training strategy, curriculum, etc., against real-life results.
b.  Address the “pain points” quickly.
c.  Always seek to learn from every encounter and adopt an attitude of continuous improvement.

We’ll explore each component of a strategic knowledge improvement plan in detail in subsequent articles.


Dr. Greg Forzley ( is the Director of Informatics for St. Mary’s Health Care in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and serves as Chairman of the Michigan Medical Society. Dr. Forzley has been instrumental in improving physician adoption of EMR systems and is a champion of improving patient care through meaningful use concepts.

Mr. Tony Onorad ( is the founder of OnoradSolutions, a knowledge improvement consulting firm and has been an innovator in the adult learning field for over fifteen years.

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