Providers need proper EHR training

Yesterday we floated a question about the proper role of government in facilitating system-wide change.

A new report raises an issue on which, in our view, there’s only one good answer.

The issue is the amount of training physicians are getting with new EHR systems. The standard recommendation, apparently, is “that doctors receive three to five days of initial training to adequately use their EHRs.”

And a new survey indicates that’s not happening.

The survey data was gathered over the course of a year from more than 2,300 physicians, and there’s definitely food for policymaker thought.

First and foremost, those surveyed said “at least three to five days of EHR training was necessary to achieve the highest level of overall satisfaction” with a new EHR system, but “nearly half (49.3 percent) of respondents indicated that they received three or fewer days of training.”

Training and ongoing technical support are often cited as holes in the HIT transition, and we’d argue there’s a clear role for government to play in filling them in. After all, while it’s referred to as an incentive program, the penalties that follow the HITECH Act’s five-year payment plan make it a program that is somewhat less than voluntary.

Having decided to corral providers into the HIT future, then, it seems only right that policymakers should pay close attention to making sure providers are getting the proper training.

But there’s another reason provider education should be considered an important job for public officials. It’s safe to say many providers simply won’t make it into the HITECH program, so they’ll be left to decide whether or not they want to make the investment on their own. If their colleagues who have forged ahead are having only limited success with EHRs, those waiting on the sidelines may decide it’s better to sit tight.

In short, even as they work to convince providers that EHRs will make their practices better, policymakers should also be making sure that those who’ve believed them are able to put their new technology to its highest and best use.