After choosing the right EHR system for your assisted living or memory care community, carrying out adequate training may be the most important factor in determining how quickly you see a return on your investment.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Electronic health records training is not a single box to check during the implementation process – and it’s not a one-size-fits-all undertaking. It’s an ongoing process that needs to match both the needs of your staff and the specifics of the software you’re using and the ways you’re using it.

Still, experience is a valuable teacher. Here are some tips on how to do EHR training right from two long-term care community leaders who have been through it: Kara Stolp, Regional Director of Nursing at Grand Lifestyles, and Diana Ponterio, VP of Operations at Country Meadows.

(For more insight from them, check out our webinar Boost ROI and Become More Efficient with an EHR.)

Talk to a Current Client of the EHR

While no two communities have identical training needs or experiences, getting insight from a client who’s a few months ahead of you could save you time. If you’re able to get in touch with a current client who’s willing to chat, ask not only for general tips on how they carried out the training process but also for specifics: what went well for them? What do they wish they’d done differently?

Thinking about training as it applies specifically to the platform you’ve chosen can help you make your planning phase more efficient.

Train the Trainer

Both Stolp and Ponterio attest to the success of establishing a group of internal “super-users” who can serve as point people for the whole team. Before you tackle general training, invest in “train the trainer” sessions for these super-users. The goal is to get them familiar with the EHR system you’ve chosen and to let them serve as ambassadors of your community so the EHR team can learn about its needs.

When you launch full-staff training, super-users can serve as point people who answer questions your staff has. It’s also smart to encourage them to find new and innovative ways to use the EHR system to meet your community’s unique needs.

Tailor Your Training to Your Team

If you have a younger or more tech-savvy staff, you may be able to skip over computer basics and launch right in to how to use the EHR software. If your team is less familiar with tablets or computer terminals, take time to make sure everyone has a firm grasp of the hardware as well as the software.

Ponterio, for example, found that creating a notebook showing step-by-step screenshots helped her staff learn new processes better.

If you’ve got a team of mixed technical ability, don’t despair. Pairing up more- and less- tech-savvy staff members can help keep everyone more engaged while ensuring that everyone learns the new system.

Break the Training into Small Milestones

EHR training is a process that can take months. That can be overwhelming. To keep your staff (and yourself!) motivated, segment your training into small milestones that you can achieve in shorter time frames.

Stolp, for example, saw success by setting weekly goals for getting data into the EHR system. She created a spreadsheet that her team sent to her weekly. This helped keep the team on track and ensured that transitioning data remained a priority when day-to-day tasks piled up.

Another strategy Stolp found useful was to schedule weekly check-in sessions. Whether you hold these in person or on a conference call, they’re an opportunity to…

  • Let your staff engage with the EHR provider’s support team.
  • Review new skills.
  • Answer questions.
  • Address issues.

The secret to success here is to get these sessions on the calendar and to make them a priority every week. Letting them get bumped sends the message that training is less important than more urgent matters, which simply isn’t the case if you want your team to succeed in the long run.

Practice in Close-to-Real Conditions

Training sessions are important, but they often don’t simulate the situations your staff will encounter during the course of a normal day. To the extent possible, give your team the opportunity to use your EHR in like-real conditions. Doing this will raise questions or reveal problems that would never come up in the controlled circumstances of typical training sessions.

Ponterio found two strategies to be particularly effective:

  • Read-only mode. As much as possible, CNAs and other staff viewed records and documents as they’d look in the EHR – but without editing access. This allowed them to familiarize themselves with the look and feel of the new system before they were required to interact with it.
  • A mock go-live. On this day, her community started using the EHR system, but without it being the “official” system. This let staff practice in real circumstances and let everyone make mistakes without causing any major bottlenecks.

It’s also smart to test all customer support systems available to you: email addresses, phone numbers, online chats, etc. Get to know how responsive each channel is, when each is most helpful, and which kinds of questions are best for each.

Iterate as You Go

If you’re undertaking a multiple-campus rollout (as Ponterio did), plan to go live with the EHR one campus at a time, tweaking and improving your process with each campus. Even if you conduct training in parallel, staggering rollouts can help ensure your leadership doesn’t get spread too thin and can help you find a rhythm as you proceed.

Want to hear more about how your EHR provider can support training at your community? Sign up for a free demo, and we’ll show you!

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