Last updated: March 15, 2011 - 8:30am
Hospitals have spent millions of dollars adopting electronic medical records, aiming to get a slice of the government's $27 billion in incentives. Now, they need to teach doctors and other staffers to use the records. But performing such tasks as entering orders for medication and taking patients' medical histories by computer requires significant changes in work habits.
And according to a recent Dell Inc. survey of 150 hospital executives, 79% were at least somewhat concerned about training clinicians and hospital staff to use the records properly. To get doctors and care givers -- some of whom are skeptical about the ability of electronic records to improve productivity or patient care -- on board, hospitals are taking a range of approaches, including offering training any hour of the day or night, converting vacant buildings into training facilities and using computer programs to get physicians up to speed quickly. But many "hospitals have underestimated how hard it can be to get full participation by staff," says Sarah Corley, the chief medical officer at NextGen Healthcare, a provider of electronic medical records and a unit of Irvine, Calif.-based Quality Systems Inc. And training is crucial to get federal incentive payments, which require that care providers "meaningfully use" the systems. One hurdle: Many physicians aren't fans of large classroom settings.
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