As the pace of change in healthcare continues to accelerate, provider organizations across the country are looking at new technology solutions to help them achieve success in value-based care, manage populations, comply with federal requirements, and improve the patient experience.
But implementing new technology introduces its own set of unique challenges, especially in a complex organization with multiple, competing initiatives.
Every organization and project is different, of course, but what are some general best practices to make sure implementations go smoothly and stay on track? To find out, I asked Don Hamden, clinical IT coordinator at Summit Healthcare, in Show Low, Ariz.; Kathy Curran, manager of front-office operations at Summit Healthcare; and Sharon Gardner, front-desk staff manager at Urology of Virginia, in Virginia Beach.
Here are five best practices they say are critical for boosting staff engagement, managing timelines and reaching goals.
1. Engage the team at the outset.
Before beginning an implementation, bring your entire team together. Discuss the organizational challenges that you aim to address with the new solution, as well as your broader goals, such as improving the patient experience or delivering higher quality care.
The key to managing staff pushback, according to Kathy Curran, is to make people at all levels understand the impetus for the project and how their roles will influence its success.
“It can be difficult for staff at any levels of an organization to adjust to a new way of doing things,” says Curran. “Making sure staff understand your goals—in other words, the ‘why’ behind the process—will help ensure that they’re as engaged as possible.”
2. Begin with the end in mind—and choose measures of success carefully
A critical step in planning an implementation is setting short-term and long-term goals. Clearly define each one, along with your path to reaching those targets, according to Don Hamden, of Summit Healthcare.
Equally important is selecting the measures that will be used to determine whether the project is successful, adds Hamden.
“Make sure your measures tie directly back to the goals you’ve established,” he advises. “Those who have done any project management are probably familiar with the SMART acronym, where you make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. You really need that measurement piece because you need to see if you’re making forward progress, staying the same, or retrograding. You want to make sure measures are specific and can be measured consistently over time.”
3. Start out small.
If possible, implement new technology and processes in a smaller area of your organization first, says Curran.
“Having done [implementations] both ways, it’s easier to start with a smaller amount of staff, get the bugs worked out and then move up to a larger-scale implementation,” she says. These early adopters can then serve as mentors when technology is implemented throughout an organization.
4. Identify super users
During implementations, trainers are usually on site for just a few hours or days. Once they leave, employees need to have someone who can answer questions and provide real-time support. Super users from all levels, from leadership to physicians to frontline staff, can fill that role.
Choosing super users or champions can seem like a daunting task, but Gardner says it doesn’t have to be. In many cases, they self-select based on their own background or interests, especially when a project has been explained in detail to clinicians and staff.
“We’re lucky because we’ve actually never had to choose a champion for our past implementations,” says Gardner. “A champion, through their own passion, rises up and becomes that person.”
5. Keep leaders informed.
Every successful implementation begins with buy-in from a healthcare organization’s physicians and senior management. Keeping these leaders informed through regularly scheduled meetings and frequent status updates will assure them that help will be available when issues arise, says Hamden.
“There are times when the project management team will not have the authority to remove barriers to progress, so we can engage physicians or upper management to help remove those barriers,” he explains.
For more tips on smoothing the implementation process and engaging staff, head to Phreesia's blog to hear a podcast interview with Don, Kathy and Sharon.