Small Details Make a Big Difference in EHR Training Plans

I’m a program director (PMP), so I tend to view most training activities through that lens.  An EHR training program that will educate thousands of end users in a relatively short time frame requires a planning mindset and attention to small details.

This is where some Training Directors can stumble. Many in training come out of the world of education and instructional design. Their strengths are in teaching and the development of curriculum, but they may have less experience in the system-wide implementation of 30+ application training plans inside a large health system.

Don’t get me wrong:  thoughtful, engaging curriculum should be the foundation of every training program. But you also need to pay attention to logistics, so you are getting the right user to the right classroom at the right time.

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My tips below are focused on important planning details that are sometimes overlooked, but are critical for training success.

Staffing Lists

Staff lists drawn from the hospital HR or ERP system are the starting point for role mapping to determine who will be assigned to different training tracks.  But these lists can be incorrect or incomplete. And they are constantly changing with new hires, promotions and departures. Having a process in place to validate and update staff lists is critical to ensure that everyone gets the training they need, and to mitigate calls and questions from end users and managers.

My other planning reminder on this point is that there are always individuals outside of the hospital who are not captured on staff lists, but who require access to EHR data and reports, and thus may need some level of training or support. These are often contracted personnel, such as coders or transcriptionists.

Registration Needs

In my experience, registration problems are often rooted in communication problems. End users may be confused on how to register or which classes to sign up for, or they may wonder why they are assigned to certain classes. Some of this confusion can be avoided by working closely with site and unit managers to ensure that they understand the registration plan and processes. One recommendation is to hold a pre-registration training fair and invite the managers and supervisors to talk with your trainers and registration staff. Once registration has opened, continue to communicate with managers through a regular webinar series or some other channels.

In parallel, ensure that you have dedicated support to assist registrants. For large health systems, I recommend having support staff in place from 6a to 7p Mon-Fri and on Sat to answer registration questions and allay concerns during the registration and training phases. The support team should have clear metrics for turnaround times to provide answers, and defined channels for routing questions that they can’t answer themselves with the trainers.

Provider Requirements

I wrote extensively about the needs of providers in my last blog post. To recap here, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to create a training plan that doesn’t represent the input and special scheduling requirements of clinicians.

Providers are, arguably, the most critical group of end users in the hospital.  A training plan that isn’t accommodating of their needs will fail.

E-Learning Issues

The classroom is often the focus of many training programs, but E-Learning is equally critical. Your end users will be frustrated by E-Learning if you don’t anticipate these common questions:

  • When should users take their E-Learning?
  • What is the expected time window between completion of E-Learning and going to class? And is successful completion a pre-requisite for classroom attendance?
  • Where and when should end users do their E-Learning? At home or at work?
  • If staff have to complete E-Learning at home, are they paid for that time?

Another key for E-Learning success is to anticipate technical needs. If users are required to do E-Learning at work, ensure that you have a sufficient number of PCs (and headsets) to meet their needs. It’s also important to test the equipment in advance to mitigate technical hurdles common to hospitals, such as firewalls, popup blockers or limited internet access.

Classroom Logistics

Training classes can be a source of anxiety, so the last thing you want to do is create unnecessary confusion and stress for users just before they step into the classroom. But that’s exactly what you’re doing if you aren’t thoughtful about classroom logistics.

Your advance communication to users should tell them everything they need to know to get to the right classroom at the right time. Remember that training classes may be held in buildings that users are unfamiliar with. In that circumstance, don’t forget to convey site-specific information, like parking rules or dress codes.

At the entry to the building where classes are held, set up large, easy-to-read signs listing class locations, and have someone greeting end users and directing them as needed. Trainees aren't always going to remember exact class names and rooms.

Also make sure users can actually get into assigned buildings and rooms. This is especially important for classes scheduled during non-business hours when a building or room that you planned to use might be locked. Check to ensure access to each room about an hour before class. These are small details, but they help ensure that your training sessions go off smoothly, which in turn, allows users to focus on learning.

Vicki Davis is Healthcare IT Leaders VP, EHR Activation and Training. She has led large-scale training and delivery teams at Providence Health and Systems and Stanford Health and has overseen classroom-based and online learning programs for tens of thousands of end-users over the past decade.

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