What skills are needed to implement and support an EHR system?
The implementation of an EHR system requires a project management team with leadership skills, management ability, patience, and vision. The team must realize that the implementation of a health IT system is a large, multifaceted project that will not always go as planned. The ability to deal with frustration constructively and seek opportunities in the face of adversity is a definite asset.
The importance of good communication skills cannot be overemphasized. Both verbal and written communication skills among team members and with the administration are essential for ensuring that a project is well managed and organized. Once the project has started, the project team will be involved in regular project meetings and sub workgroups if necessary. All meetings should be well documented with a summary list of action items. Meeting minutes should be prepared and shared with all meeting participants. In addition, the project manager and key members of the team should provide periodic status updates to senior leadership, if they are not already included in these discussions, to ensure that they remain well informed on the progress of the project and of any changes to the schedule and/or scope of the implementation. Members of the team should also regularly connect with other clinical staff to ensure that their needs are being met. Finally, the project manager and other members of the team should also document all risks that are identified and how they will be mitigated. The risk management plan should be shared with senior leadership.
With the increasing complexity of clinical system implementations, the need for well trained, skilled project managers continues to increase. All projects need not be managed by formally trained project management. However, an experienced project manager can be a valuable resource as organizations commence implementation of complex technologies. If organizations are interested in providing staff with project management training, they can consider certification programs available through a number of colleges and universities, or other organizations, such as the Project Management Institute. There are also a variety of different project management certification credentials that one can pursue.
With regard to technical expertise, the level of IT skills depends on the health IT solution being implemented and the complexity of the organization. Often, vendors can provide support with software installation, networking and interfacing, especially during the implementation phase. However, having a resident member of the staff with basic knowledge in these areas is preferable. Larger organizations may consider hiring dedicated technical assistance staff or contracting with a technical support service to meet their needs. Courses and certification programs are also available through community colleges and universities to train individuals in the basics of applied health informatics. Additional programs are available through health IT organizations such as AMIA (American Medical Informatics Association) and HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society).
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