Once you’ve made the decision to adopt an EHR system at your assisted living or memory care community, it’s time to think about your training plan. In fact, you may think of your EHR training as something that starts at the same time you start to consider EHR platforms. That’s because the success or failure of your EHR will depend in large part on the quality of the data you put into it. And much of that data will be entered by your frontline CNA staff.

You want them to be 100 percent on board with the transition – and that’s not always easy. Any time you ask people to change the way they do things, there will be grumbling. Change is hard. But again: for your community to see the highest possible ROI from its EHR investment, your CNAs have to be using the system consistently and accurately.

To make that behavior a reality, you’ll have to have a training plan in place. Here’s what we recommend, based on what we’ve seen work at communities around the country.

Before Implementing the EHR

While you’re still in the exploration phase, training efforts should focus on building engagement and getting buy-in from staff who will be required to use the new system.

  • Communicate early & often about the transition. Change is hard, as we said. What’s even harder is when you’re told out of the blue that you have to change what you’re doing completely and without any warning – or else. While we don’t expect nursing directors to take that kind of management approach, we know that life gets busy. You may not think to mention the conversion to an electronic health records system to your frontline staff – they’ve got plenty on their plates as it is. But we recommend looping them in as soon as you start the search for an EHR platform. Consider this Phase One of your training plan. The earlier you let them know what’s going on, the more time they have to get used to the idea – and the more engaged they’re likely to be. Plus, when you give plenty of lead time, you set the stage to get your CNAs excited about the transition by providing them with information about all the ways an EHR will make their jobs easier.
  • Communicate the importance of the CNA’s role. Again: your CNAs are essential to the success of your EHR implementation. As part of your pre-implementation communications, make sure they understand this. When employees understand how their work affects the larger business and has a real impact on its bottom line, they’re more likely to be engaged with their work and enthusiastic about increasing that impact.
  • Ask CNAs for input. Find out what’s important to the people who will be on the front lines of EHR use. If some of your staff have worked with EHRs before, ask them about features they liked and disliked, or about features they wish they had. Engaging in this way will not only prepare your staff for the transition but also provide you with questions to guide your conversation with the software vendors you consider.
  • Engage with the naysayers. Inevitably, some of your CNAs won’t be as enthusiastic about converting to an EHR. Some may even be openly hostile to the idea. That’s normal (not ideal, but normal). Make it a point to talk to these folks and figure out where their hesitations are coming from. They may have underlying worries that their technology skills aren’t up to par or that they won’t be able to learn the system and will fall behind on work. Reassure them that they’ll receive thorough training and that you’ll be there to support them during the transition and beyond. This may not solve every problem, but it should help.

During EHR Implementation

Once you’ve chosen an EHR platform, your training can focus more on making sure your team is actually ready to use the platform you selected.

    1. Create a leadership team (if you have multiple communities) or a chief trainer. The idea here is to identify one person at every community who will lead training on EHR implementation. In some cases, it makes sense for this to be the nursing director. In others, a person from IT may be better suited to the job.
    2. Train the trainer(s). Schedule several sessions for the trainers to work with representatives from your EHR vendor to familiarize themselves with how to use the software. It’s also a good idea for you or a CNA to be involved in these sessions to ensure that the training is practical and relevant.
    3. Develop materials to train CNAs. Country Meadows, a Maryland- and Pennsylvania-based Caremerge customer, found that putting together a detailed manual with step-by-step screenshots worked for showing CNAs how to use the new system. Depending on how tech-savvy your staff is, screen recordings may also be helpful.
    4. Designate super-users of the EHR. As part of your general training, choose a couple CNAs to be “super-users.” They’ll be the go-to people within your community for questions about the EHR. The ideal super-user is tech savvy, personable, and eager to take on more responsibility. As a super-user, the CNA will have a chance to offer guidance to their colleagues, a leadership role that can help boost their engagement and investment of the outcome of the EHR implementation.
    5. Lean on the onboarding or customer service team at your EHR vendor. Ideally, part of your process for choosing an EHR involved asking vendors about their customer service and support. During the training process, tap into their onboarding and support resources as much as necessary. Make sure your staff knows how to contact the support team, how best to ask questions and report problems, and how quickly they can expect an answer or resolution.
    6. Meet your staff where they are. Training is an ongoing process in any job. And the best EHR systems are constantly adding new features, meaning that even your fastest CNAs will always have something new to learn. For staff members who are less tech-savvy, make an effort to offer the support they need in the transition. This will require additional time and patience on your part, but it will pay off in the long run, when every member of your team is using the system correctly and completely.

Learn from Real EHR Training Experiences

If you’re interested in hearing from the leaders at assisted living communities that have already made the transition to EHR, check out our webinars with Country Meadows and Grand Lifestyles.

Interested in learning more about how CareMerge can support you in the training process? Get in touch, and we’ll reach out to answer your questions.

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