The passage of the Healthcare Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) of 2009 was a Congressional mandate requiring healthcare providers to adopt electronic medical records (EMR) technology. $27 billion taxpayer dollars went into the deployment of these technology systems and countless billions from the healthcare providers forced to implement them.
In the process, we learned a lot about rolling out system-level technology investments to knowledge workers. What we found was that big technology rollouts are most effective when clinical teams buy-in to their implementation. These lessons will inform the next big advancements in healthcare technology; the telehealth virtual visit.
If you’re considering a technology rollout to healthcare workers, here’s what you need to know.
EHRs Received A Failing Grade From Doctors
The transition to electronic health records (EHRs) was touted as an important way to improve the quality of life for doctors and patients. We were told these digital platforms would serve as a strategy for bringing together healthcare silos to improve outcomes. The tools would lessen confusion and streamline clinical workflows. Even better, they would create a connected hub for care coordination, helping to reduce medical errors while cutting clinical overhead.
Whether any of these promises have come to fruition is a matter of debate. A study just this month said that, years later, doctors remain frustrated by the user-friendliness of these platforms; so much so, that a national survey showed clinical teams give EMRs a failing grade.
The paper, published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, sought to correlate physician burnout and the usability (or lack of) in EHR platforms. It was a joint project between researchers at Stanford, Mayo, and the American Medical Association. The research adopted a System Usability Scale leveraged in more than 1,300 other usability studies in various industries.
Under the scoring mechanism, participants rated technology platforms for their ease-of-use. For example, Google’s search engine received an “A” rating, while Microsoft Excel scored an “F.” But in last place was the electronic health record, which doctors gave an even lower score than Excel.
What the study did not seek to quantify was whether some of the physician frustration with EHRs actually came from the fact that the technology was mandated via HITECH. Could this “F” grade correlate with physician buy-in of EMR adoption? Did some of the clinical participants instead feel as if the Congressional mandate forced their use of this technology?
EHR vendors should clearly take note of this study and rethink the user experience of their technology. But does this study also illustrate the importance of stakeholder buy-in during a technology implementation?
Understanding Stakeholder Buy-In
Projects fail when stakeholders fail to buy-in. This is particularly true of complex multi-location technology deployments, such as those that occur during a healthcare IT rollout.
Technology is used by people. Technology implementation is only successful when humans adapt workflow changes that allow them to leverage these tools. Without end-user adoption, the technology, no matter how good it is, will fail.
This is particularly true in healthcare and doubly so when dealing with doctors. Clinicians are Peter Drucker’s perfect knowledge workers, those, “High-level workers who apply theoretical and analytical knowledge, acquired through formal training, to develop products and services.”
Doctors, who are trained as leaders in your organization, are crucial to the implementation of any technology impacting their practice. How can IT teams create buy-in with these experts so that technology systems can be not just implemented but embraced?
Why Clinical Buy-In During A Tech Rollout Matters So Much
Proficient is one of dozens of organizations that have weighed in on the difficulties inherent in stakeholder buy-in on a technology rollout.
They define three ways doctors and other stakeholders are important to a healthcare technology rollout:
- Doctors are knowledge holders for workflows, clinical processes, historical data, and industry insight. These clinical stakeholders are the backbone of the healthcare organization and as such, must be involved from the beginning of any technology deployment.
- Clinicians reduce risk by uncovering the realities of an on-the-ground deployment before it occurs. These key stakeholders help IT teams define project needs and constraints because they understand the realities of how these tools will be used. By involving doctors early on, you will be more likely to uncover risks and barriers to implementation before—not after—the go-live.
- They also improve the likelihood of success of your project. Doctors listen to other doctors; so engaging key clinicians in the success of the tech deployment early will pave the way for organizational buy-in.
The lessons we’ve learned from EHR deployments have taught healthcare organizations the importance of stakeholder buy-in. This understanding will be useful as technology plays an increasing role in the healthcare organizations of tomorrow. What is the next round of big tech to hit our organizations and how can we ensure that doctors and clinical teams embrace these changes and ensure deployment success?
Telehealth and Doctor Buy-In
The next technology rollout on the horizon, many agree, will be telehealth. The 2018 Deloitte national survey of physicians says, “With changing health care reimbursement models, growing consumer demand, and advances in digital technologies, virtual care is a must-have for health systems.”
The Deloitte survey found that physicians generally agree that telehealth brings these benefits to clinical teams and their patients:
- 66% of survey participants said telehealth improves patient access to care.
- 52% said the technology improves patient satisfaction.
- 45% said telemedicine helps patients stay connected with their caregivers.
Yet the study found that these same doctors express reluctance to adopt these tools. Despite seeing the benefit, only 14% of the doctors surveyed have video visit capabilities today and 18% say they plan on adding it in the next two years. Yet up to 69% of the clinicians that have actually used telehealth say that they plan on increasing their work with these tools.
Gaining physician buy-in of any new technology is hard. But telehealth, which is a proven technology that has been available for more than three decades, requires clinicians to completely change the sacrosanct clinical visit into a virtual house call. It changes the balance of power between doctor and patient and even the physical nature of how we conduct the patient exam. Given that EHR deployments and the usability of these electronic tools have been so problematic with clinicians, is it any wonder that doctors are more reluctant to embrace telehealth?
As more organizations adopt telehealth, there is increasing clinical evidence that virtual care is on par with traditional care for treatment quality. Organizations are proving the benefits of telehealth, including increased patient convenience, improved outcomes, and lower clinical overhead. Reimbursement models are expanding, and Deloitte says this, “Could encourage more providers to select the site of care based on clinical needs and the best interests of the patient—often, this is the patient’s home.”
But perhaps the biggest driver of future stakeholder buy-in of telehealth technology is the simple fact that healthcare consumers increasingly expect clinicians to provide it as a point of care option. As more healthcare systems adopt these tools, even the smallest providers will be forced to consider telemedicine as an option—or run the risk of falling behind their competitors.
OrthoLive offers a convenient, easy-to-adopt telehealth option for orthopedic providers. Our easy to use, secure platform will encourage your providers to consider the virtual visit. Contact us today for a free demo.