Implementing IT Solutions: Getting Physicians Onboard

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In the drive towards increased efficiencies, either implementing or upgrading automated physician reporting systems is a major goal for many imaging facilities. From computerized provider order entry (CPOE) to cardiovascular information systems practices and clinical departments are bringing new technology online designed to automate as much as possible of the physician reporting process. But to make it work, you’ve got to get your physicians on board.

Gaining physician mind share and participation on may be easier said than done. In fact, training physicians in using the technology you’ve installed to automate reporting is the last step in the process. Unless you want the process to drag into the next decade, you’ve got to lay your groundwork very carefully, inviting administrative, physician and clinical leaders and staff into the process at a very early stage. Otherwise, your stakeholders, particularly physicians, may become extremely resistant to the idea, slowing the progress to a crawl as you work through the resistance at the back end rather than the front end.

Take for example LifeBridge Health in Baltimore, Md., a health system with two major hospitals. The training process was the culmination of a long-term effort that began years before the Cerner Millennium CPOE system was brought online, according to Ev Amaral, vice president of operations improvement. “The first thing we did was to hire a consulting group to help us with our thinking in terms of a readiness assessment—how ready our facilities were to adopt CPOE,” she says.

“Also, we wanted to find out where we were in terms of the business case for CPOE with our resources, management and project skills,” she continues. Only after a management retreat and conversations with important administrative and physician stakeholders did LifeBridge even start to put together a strategic plan to implement the technology. Her take-aways from the experience? Involve key physicians and administrators early, realize the process is going to take a long time and have a lot of hands-on help available when implementation starts.

Jon Pavlicek, project manager for cardiology at Banner Health, agrees that any type of automated physician reporting system, especially when installed in conjunction with other technology upgrades, is going to take several years to implement and require a major commitment from administration and physician leaders to gain mindshare. Banner Health, a healthcare system with 3,065 acute-care hospital beds in facilities in seven Western states, uses Agfa HealthCare IMPAX CV cardiovascular image and information management system.

For Steve Cameron, program director for St. Peter’s Cardiac and Vascular Center in Albany, N.Y., the implementation of a Lumedx cardiovascular clinical information system required an intensive training effort, including a training disk that walked physicians through the process as well as the installation of flat-panel television screens in reading areas which continuously walked physicians through the login and search process, he says.

The preparation process

Identifying physician and administrative champions of the automated reporting process early on is vital, says LifeBridge Health’s Amaral. Communicating early and often was also key to the eventual success of the CPOE system. Both LifeBridge and St. Peter’s took time at every physician gathering—from grand rounds to staff meetings—to update physicians on the process and needs of installing and implementing the new systems. “Breakfasts and lunches didn’t work too well in this situation,” says Cameron. “Breakfasts were semi-successful, lunches not really, as physicians tended to leave early either before or in the middle of our presentation.”

Sending out training materials in advance of or at actual training sessions helped at both Lifebridge and St. Peter’s to reinforce the message being communicated. St. Peter’s mailed physicians CD-ROMs that demonstrated the process, while LifeBridge mailed letters to each physician detailing the upcoming transition and noting the expectation that doctors would participate in the CPOE system once it was online. LifeBridge gave out CDs to each doctor at the training sessions, which were held in a classroom setting.

For doctors who wouldn’t participate in the classroom setting, trainers went out to their offices to get the job done, Amaral says. At St. Peter’s, Darvan Durr, cardiac department systems administrator, did a lot of individual