5 Ways (and why) to Help HIT and Telemedicine Adoption

A few articles came out this week that I that I feel underscore the need for providers – both large hospital systems and private practices – need to get off their collective derrières and start implementing HIT and Telemedicine.

Thankfully, we are going to provide them valuable advice to help make this happen later in this piece. However, let’s start with a brief discussion of some of this week’s materials.

In a piece entitled Researchers: MU Program May Create “Digital Divide”, Rajiv Leventhal discusses a study published online few days ago that looked at thousands of across New York during the 1st two years of Meaningful Use.

What they discovered is that early adopters that stuck with the program consistently have done far far better than those who more recently jumped in. To quote Leventhal, “… early and consistent participants had greater financial resources, more organizational capacity to report the use of health information technology and prior experience with technology.”

I think the ramifications of that statement speak for themselves. The longer you wait, the further behind you are likely to fall behind your competing providers. Period.

We know there are difficulties with interoperability on EHRs. We know there are difficulties with interstate licensure and reimbursement. But as one of the study’s authors, Dr. Hye-Young Jung, Ph.d., puts it, “Those physicians who adopt the program may provide higher quality care to their patients. This difference may create a digital divide.”

For those who are terrified of Meaningful Use Stage 3, we know that there are Senate hearings happening right now to try to alleviate or prevent some of the difficulties predicted for Stage 3. These are by the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, chaired by Sen. Lamar Alexander.

A recent CMS survey discussed just yesterday by Anne Zieger on Hospital EMR & EHR found that more than 80% of US doctors have used EMRs. Add that to another survey Anne mentions where 81% of private practices have said that they were happy with their cloud-based EMRs. OMG.

Although there are fewer surveys happening around live video medicine or video telemedicine as some still call it, but we have seen a surge here at swyMed of interest in its immediate implementation.

What I’m getting at here is that there is more and increasing data showing that HIT and telemedicine both work and that the early adopters are beginning to sprint ahead of the late adopters. The keyword that I’m about to work on is “adopters”.

Vendors and customers alike have found getting buy-in and adoption of HIT and Telemedicine products to be very difficult in some situations. Here are 5 ways to speed up that process:

1)     Find the champion (vendor) or be the champion (client).

Many people trying to get Healthcare Technology into Healthcare Providers try to get IT, or the boss, or whomever, to implement the solution. This is never a winning strategy.

If you’re a vendor, pitching to someone who has no passion for tech will eventually be a losing proposition as that person will ultimately not work enough at making sure it works or that others are using it. The champion may or may not be the purchasing, and therefore nominal, decision maker, but they are the de facto decision maker.

If you’re on the provider side and you’ve been looking for an internal champion to help implement this wonderful plan of yours to use HIT and Telemedicine in your practice, your best bet is to look in the mirror. YOU’RE the one interested. YOU’RE the one with a vision. You may have allies, but you can drive this process even if you’re not the CFO, CIO, or in IT. Some of the advice below helps champions at any level.

2)     Makes super-users front and center.

Super-users make more super-users. Whether it’s yourself or someone else, those using the solution need to make their use visible to those who aren’t. And they also need to make a little time for answering questions, helping with setups, or even just saying what benefits they’ve been experiencing since embracing the tech. This will go a long way to helping others feel like they can use the solution as well.

3)     Show off for the most excited, not the most likely to benefit.

Our most skilled and successful client champion has made an art out of marketing his department’s successes (and ourselves by association) internally. It has kept adoption and use in new departments growing consistently and is a very replicable model.  Being replicable, I recommend you all replicate it.

Step 1: Once installed and tested for one department, arrange training sessions for the staff. Invite the heads of other departments…the ones you think will be most excited about trying this out themselves (as opposed to the ones you think will benefit most but may be resistant).

Step 2: Make sure the other department is shown things relevant to how they work and that benefits are mappable to them.

Step 3: Once the first department has been up and running for a couple months, make sure the results are distributed to the rest of the organization. If possible, have a follow up training session where the users share what they’ve learned with each other, and the positive results of those uses. Make sure to invite those Heads from the Other Department to the session

Step 4: Go back to Step 1 with the Other Department as they come asking for a few licenses of the solution. Make sure to invite the Heads of Yet Another Department (that might get excited) to the training sessions.

4)     Put the champion near the implementation.

This sound intuitive, but isn’t. The Champion may be a fairly high-ranking executive that would normally have little to do with the implementation process. However, we’ve found that both adoption and best results come from having a Champion closer to the level of use…they can interact with the end users and have a more visceral feel for what issues need to be overcome. If the Champion is a high ranking executive, recommend that they get knee deep in the process and thoroughly learn the solution themselves whether they’ll be end users or not.

5)     Hold hands.

This one is the most simple. If you are the vendor, provide stellar customer service. Provide stellar training. Make reasonable customizations.

If you are the client, USE customer service. DEMAND reasonable customizations. This is YOUR solution, and it needs to work with your clinicial and administrative staff’s workflows. The ultimate value of the technology is moot if your doctors can’t make it work.

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