Staffing your EHR implementation: 4 areas to watch as you plan

LindseyManzuk_2016If you’ve taken a road trip, you probably had some issues you could have avoided with advanced warning. Perhaps you wish someone told you the best way to avoid Chicago traffic is to drive through late at night or make sure you get an E-ZPass for toll roads. Whenever I’m going somewhere new, I always ask my friends for advice to make my trip as smooth as possible.

Planning your EHR implementation also has pitfalls to avoid, particularly when it comes to staffing. As part of your preparation, you’ll receive a staffing document that outlines a recommended number of people for your core project team and additional staff needs.

Taking this recommendation and customizing it for your organization is more of an art than a science, and understanding where similar organizations have struggled can help make this challenging task a bit more straightforward.

While every organization is different, there are a few places where we often see staffing struggles – and we want to share them so you can take them into consideration during your planning. If you have questions or would like to discuss your implementation staffing model, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team via the link below.


Area #1: Physician champions

The number of physician champions you staff will depend on the needs of your organization. We find that most organizations split the responsibility across multiple people, which works best if you have several strong leaders who communicate well with each other and provide expertise across different patient care areas.

For example, one of my previous customers staffed three part-time physician champions with backgrounds in emergency medicine, cardiology, and family practice for their enterprise implementation. These three champions were in regular communication with each other but divided their areas of focus to work most closely with the provider groups they knew best. This meant most physicians at the organization were regularly communicating about the project with a physician they already knew and respected, resulting in great provider buy-in for the implementation.

If you are a smaller organization, such as a single hospital or several tight-knit outpatient clinics, a single champion may be most effective. If you assign one person as a physician or nursing champion, make sure that person understands what is expected of him or her, has enough time to own his or her responsibilities, and is supported by a network of peers across the organization to help distribute communication and complete tasks.

Area #2: Readiness owners

While the clinical, access, and revenue cycle operational readiness owners generally won’t be doing system build, they are a critical part of connecting your core project team members doing the configuration and testing to the end users across your organization.   

Some of these readiness owners will need to attend training at Epic in Madison. By identifying them early, they can complete their training at the beginning of your implementation and obtain the base system knowledge necessary to effectively perform their roles throughout your implementation. Also, don’t forget to budget for their classroom training, travel costs, and time on the project.

Area #3: Specialty application/module analysts

For smaller, specialty applications and modules such as Wisdom, your staffing recommendation may only include a single analyst. In these cases, we recommend you cross-train at least one other person on that application’s build and workflows. 

This person can then provide support during outages, go-live, and extra-busy times like testing. For example, if your Wisdom expert gets sick or takes vacation, having an EpicCare Ambulatory expert cross-trained in Wisdom will help you continue your implementation progress during the outage.

Area #4: Communication experts

In many cases, we see clients give implementation communication responsibilities to their existing communications and marketing team without designating a specific owner. Not appointing a point person for implementation communications often leads to EHR communications being de-prioritized in favor of other initiatives and users not feeling informed.

My most successful customers staff at least one part-time or full-time communications professional to their Epic implementation. Having a single person owning communications for your EHR implementation and allocating time for him or her to sufficiently focus on his or her responsibilities helps ensure communications are well-planned, thorough, and customized to different end-user groups as appropriate.

As you look through your staffing recommendation, make sure you review both the core project team and additional staffing needs. We see many cases where organizations focus only on the core project team and don’t realize there are additional roles and people who will need to provide time and expertise to the project.  When it comes to EHR implementations, it really does take a village to be successful.

If you’d like a free second opinion on your implementation staffing plan, our team would be happy to discuss additional learnings and best practices.


Topics: implementation planning, Implementation

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