How finding your champion is key to a successful implementation

 Northwestern Medical Center describes its successful EHR implementation in the Emergency Department.

We’ve all sat through meetings where important tasks are discussed, but when it comes time to delegate the work or follow-up afterward, things get lost in the shuffle. This is especially common for those of us working in a hectic Emergency Department.

However, during an EHR implementation, you cannot afford to get lost. You need to be focused, stay driven, and keep up with your timeline for your Go-LIVE date. But how do you keep a department full of busy clinicians on schedule and on task? By doing two things: finding your champions, and facilitating clear, constant communication.

Identify Your Champions

It’s absolutely essential to identify champions in specific areas across multiple departments and teams, who will help paint the big picture for everyone else. If you leave tasks wide open, you never really make the substantial progress you need to stay on track with the build.

Every group has a variety of different talents, and every organization has talented individuals. It’s like teaching kids music. Every kid has musical talent; it’s just about tapping into that talent.

A good champion will be able to work well with others in order to have a positive impact on your implementation. Not only do you need a successful leader in the physician build, you will also need a separate lead for the nurse, radiology and lab builds. All the components of the build have to come together so they work in unison. You can have the greatest physician build, but if nurses are suffering because their build isn’t done right, then the system doesn’t work. It has to be cohesive.

Your champion must be willing to answer to their peers. If things aren’t working, your staff must have someone to go to, to ask “why isn’t this working?” People will put up with temporary workarounds if necessary, because they understand the challenges of implementing software. But they still want to be heard.

A common mistake when selecting your champion is choosing someone from an administrative role because you believe the type of work is similar. However, administrators usually already have their hands full, so to add these implementation responsibilities to their plates can be overwhelming. Usually, you are better off taking someone out of clinical time and allowing them to make this project “their baby,” with the expectation that they need to make this work for everyone.

People who are natural leaders will usually step up to the plate to become champions without much prodding. But this role is not for everyone. You really need someone who understands workflows, and has an acumen for matching up what the system’s capabilities are and what is happening on a day-to-day basis in the ED. And that person must have a vision to help everyone work together on the common goal.

Communicate Constantly

Once you have your champion, you’ll need to help them facilitate constant communication between groups. If you want to see your teams satisfied with the process, both before and after Go-LIVE, it all comes down to pre-implementation planning.

Implementing within the ED is a completely different ballgame from other projects. With the controlled chaos that is an ED, it’s important to get the new workflow in front of clinicians visually, as soon as you can. To start, our organization decided to upload our system icon onto each workspace and desktop. We found this to be a noninvasive way to start preparing our clinicians for the upcoming change.

When it came down to the actual implementation, our communication strategy was to have consistent meetings while staying in touch and moving tasks forward via emails, screenshots and conversations with our champions. In the ED especially, scheduling time for everyone to meet on a regular basis is difficult, but this is a crucial step that you need to secure your clinicians’ buy-in.

Through our meetings, we soon realized how important it was to prioritize the build and pay attention to the basics. When you’re in large group meetings, conversations can drill down into minutia very quickly. You can find yourself in the weeds when people start arguing about things that, in the end, don’t make that much of a difference to your workflow.

As long as your group doesn’t stray too far away from its goals, you will be successful. Don’t try to tackle a huge number of new initiatives that you don’t need right away. There’s enough going on in a new implementation, just in terms of helping providers to learn and use the software.

Stay focused on the big things, like moving patients from Point A to B, providing appropriate treatment and orders, and grouping orders, discharge and dispositions.

A close partnership with your EHR vendor can be very beneficial, and was certainly a huge win for us. It needs to be a 50/50 relationship; if a vendor is all over the project and they don't have someone on the other side to respond, it can negatively impact the build. I found that whatever we needed on the MEDITECH side, we always got a great response.

So, if you’re just starting to prepare for an upcoming EHR implementation, or even if you’re smack dab in the middle of one, just remember to find your champions and constantly communicate. These are the biggest keys to your success.


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Topics: Nurse, EHR, Physician, Implementation

Written by Louis Dandurand, MD, Northwestern Medical Center

Louis Dandurand, MD, is an attending ED physician and ED software informaticist at Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans, Vermont. He works regular clinical ER shifts while he leads the physician informaticist team for MEDITECH Web implementation, and develops software for clinical use. Dr. Dandurand is board certified in emergency medicine and is a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians. He received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine, and his Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) from the University of Vermont College of Medicine. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV.
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