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Published in CenterView on February 13, 2012

Training team preps UMMC staff before EHR system launch

By Bruce Coleman

Physicians, nurses, and other health-care workers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center who aren't yet familiar with the new EPIC system are about to receive a crash course.

EPIC, the long-awaited comprehensive electronic health records (EHR) system, is scheduled to launch June 1. By that date, literally everyone who touches a patient record at UMMC - more than 6,400 employees in all - must be trained in the new software.

It's a task worthy of the state-of-the-art EHR's name. But if EPIC Training Team members are concerned, they're certainly not showing it.
 
Their faith in the ability of Medical Center staff to understand and quickly adapt to EPIC is grounded in their study of how other academic health science centers have successfully adopted the system.

"Most of the information we received from other EPIC clients has helped tremendously to guide us into a better understanding of the training project, the enormity of the role and the crafting out of strategies to ensure we prepare our users for the EHR experience," said Connie Ratcliff, EPIC program manager.

Ratcliff and members of the Medical Center's training team met with representatives from other EPIC institutions such as Stanford and Dartmouth to learn how best to fashion appropriate instruction for Medical Center faculty and staff. That research formed the basis of UMMC's EPIC training process (see accompanying chart).

"We've been working on this training since mid-May of 2011, crafting the curriculum and determining the workflows," Ratcliff said. "All of our principal trainers have completed a rigorous four-month certification process in preparation for the six-week credentialed training program that is currently in motion.

"Half the trainers are our own (Medical Center) staff. The external trainers will be bringing education and IT skills into the mix. We're invested in our trainers."

Although the training provides a comprehensive view of the EHR system, the plan is primarily role-based, allowing health-care staff to fulfill specific functions within the EHR system. To derive the most benefit from the classes, Dr. John Showalter, chief medical information officer, suggests individuals should practice what's been preached to them as often as possible.

"There's going to be a bunch of things in training that you will never use," Showalter said with a laugh. "But to paraphrase another faculty member who has been through the training, 'You have to learn everything about EPIC to learn what you need to know.'"

Ratcliff said EPIC training is divided into approximately 189 different combinations of "tracks" that are tailored to specific occupations at the Medical Center. She said classroom training is mandatory for individuals to become fully versed in EPIC.

"The training tracks are role-based and teach the basic patient workflows," Showalter said. "But the system can be personalized." For example, he said employees in specialty areas will need the training to figure out how to personalize the system to fulfill their patients' specific (EHR) needs.

Classroom training will be scheduled on the main campus, in the DIS training room at the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center, at University Physicians-Grants Ferry and at the Central Billing Office in Clinton.

Although intuitive, EPIC is not designed to be understood on the fly, according to Ratcliff.

"This isn't a typical on-the-job training process," she said. "It's a large project. It's not something you're going to get just by playing around with the system.

"There's a systematic process that moves from paper and print to the electronic health record. Users won't understand it until they sit in class and see it for themselves."

For the EHR system to function properly - especially at an institution the size of the Medical Center - each individual must be fully versed in his or her role, said Ellen Swoger, chief applications officer.

"To be successful, satisfied, happy users, they've got to go to the training classes," Swoger said. "If they don't go to training, there'll be some very frustrated 'hunting and pecking' going on."

"The value of training is in getting everyone to enter the same information in the exact same fields in the exact same way," Ratcliff said. "Everybody has a piece, and if their piece isn't there, the picture isn't there."

After EPIC goes live, Swoger said initial training sessions will continue for new employees and continuing education will be available for any upgrades to the program.

"It'll be a work in progress," she said. "The organization, from the executives on down, is really committed to making this happen. It won't really hit the staff until they start to train that this is one of the biggest projects we've had in the last decade or two."

For more information about EPIC training, e-mail epictraining@umc.edu.

The ABCs of EPIC

EPIC training will be composed of four distinct steps:

  1. E-learning preparation
    Approximately two weeks before formal training classes are to begin, each employee will be given an overview of EPIC through the Medical Center's e- learning system.
  2. Classroom instruction
    Employees will receive individualized classroom training specific to their roles within the EPIC system.
  3. Practice sessions
    Concurrent with classroom training, employees will be able to practice what they've learned. Additional classroom training may be required.
  4. Assessments and logins
    All health-care workers must demonstrate a minimum 80-percent proficiency rating before they can receive final access to EPIC.
  5. Personalization
    Approximately two weeks before EPIC is to go live, the ambulatory team, trainers and physician champions will conduct usability labs to help physicians build personalized preference lists based on their respective specialties. This will enhance the user experience at "go live."