Embracing Changing Technologies

It’s always interesting to be the patient once in a while. I had my annual physical this morning, and my doctor happens to be at a hospital that’s going through a big EMR upgrade, first implemented just a few days ago. Both the nurse and the doctor I saw sighed noticeably when sitting down at the application, and of course when I casually asked about the new system, neither had anything positive to say about it. The questionnaire that my doctor was working through included a question about my alcohol consumption, to which I answered “1-2 drinks a week” (CEOs don’t get out much). She tried to type exactly that into the system, but got an error message “Please enter valid data.” She sighed again, and tried to figure out a few other ways to type it, until I suggested that perhaps it only wanted numbers, not letters. Sure enough, that worked. I’m a software guy, she’s an MD. It shouldn’t require a software guy to use.

This system cost many, many millions of dollars, and not only wasted my doctor’s time, but mine. It causes frustration in a high performance team. The error message could easily have said “Please enter a number,” but it didn’t.

By the end of the questionnaire, she stopped typing and was writing the answers on paper with a pen, and told me she’d just type it in later.

Change is hard. Surely in the long run, the new EMR will reduce errors and increase efficiency, making both patients and providers happy. It’s probably the right answer to the organization’s overall problem, but the implementation of any complex system isn’t without hiccups.

As Geonetric introduces new products and services in our clients’ Web sites, patient portals and intranets, we’ve been working hard to make sure that we can help our clients work through these changes by:

  • Communicating well throughout the implementation
  • Communicating deeply into the organization about the project and its benefits
  • Conducting thorough training so that everyone is up to speed well ahead of time
  • Measuring outcomes that matter to our clients

The goal is to avoid adoption challenges and frustration.

Change will always be hard, but Geonetric is stepping up. As the technologies and strategies shift, as patients are bigger and more important players in their own healthcare, we all need to be better at change.

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This entry was posted in Best Practices, Industry Trends, User Experience by Eric Engelmann. Bookmark the permalink.
Eric Engelmann

About Eric Engelmann

Eric gets people excited. About healthcare. About technology. About Geonetric. It only takes a few moments of being in his presence to feel his passion and see his vision. A healthcare reform junkie, Eric can usually be found uncovering new ways to show healthcare executives how to leverage technology investments and develop patient portals that will improve care delivery. After earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Iowa, he began his career in technology, founding Geonetric and never looking back. Through his leadership, Geonetric continuously receives honors and recognitions, including being named a Best Place to Work by Modern Healthcare, Software Company of the Year by the Technology Association of Iowa, and an Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Company for five years running. When he’s not sharing his vision for the future of healthcare or accepting awards on behalf of his company, he can be found having lunch with his daughter at a local elementary school or donning lederhosen and entertaining his team at the Annual Engelmann Oktoberfest.

2 thoughts on “Embracing Changing Technologies

  1. “Change is hard. Surely in the long run, the new EMR will reduce errors and increase efficiency, making both patients and providers happy. It’s probably the right answer to the organization’s overall problem, but the implementation of any complex system isn’t without hiccups.”

    In some reading over the past couple of days I’ve seen a couple of posts about the need for a “Swat Team” type approach for vendor support during the initial roll out of a new implementation. Meaning – a lot of vendor help, on site during the first few weeks. Obviously that’s expensive, but as you pointed out the there was a great deal of wasted time spent trying to figure out something that should have been fairly simple. That wasted time is expensive too.

    Do you have any general thoughts on the need for that level of vendor support during implementation? It would obviously help the customer, but could it be cost effective?

  2. A vendor-led Swat-Team is a decent idea, they probably had one, I suspect. I have to say I’m not sure that’s the ultimate challenge that’s being faced in this case. I think the problem is that there are (were) a lot of people who didn’t think the old system was “bad” – or least they’d gotten used to it. Perhaps there wasn’t buyin deep enough in the organization from the folks on the floor, that they wanted to adopt the new system badly enough, to want to work through a painful implementation at all. In other words, they were comfortable with the devil they knew.

    Vendors play a huge part in preparing the ground work for large scale deployments (both the EMR and the web/intranet/portal applications my company builds). Vendors don’t usually have the ability to communicate all that deeply within the organization, and need to work with the project sponsors to ensure the deep communications happen, and happen effectively, to gain the buyin necessary, to believe the change is worth it.

    Everyone needs to understand the problem. Everyone needs to understand how the new system solves it.

    Getting the details right, though, as in the error message I cited, is simpler: User Experience testing. Whether the specific error message is vendor or client-caused, it should be pretty simple to pick up in any simple usability test.

    I have a hard time complaining too loudly though, as this rings true for my company too – I’ve been there – and there’s always things that need to be done better from a depth of support angle or UX testing.

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