What constitutes adequate EHR training for providers?

No matter how you feel about the treatment of the Illinois physician who contends he was removed from his job because he couldn't get the hang of the hospital's new electronic health record system, he does have a valid point: Physicians do need adequate training on how to use their EHRs.    

That's the gist of a new survey issued by American EHR Partners last week, which finds "strong evidence that clinicians do not receive adequate training to effectively use their EHRs." According to the survey, at least three to five days of EHR training was needed for physicians to achieve the highest level of satisfaction with the EHR system; their ratings on the ease of using the functions to meet Meaningful Use improved with more than two weeks of training.

However, about 50 percent of the 2,300 physicians surveyed received only three or fewer days of training; 4 percent of those received no initial training whatsoever.

"We hope the insights gathered from this report will lead to better strategies for initial EHR training and better usability for clinicians working on meaningful use requirements," said Dr. Michael S. Barr, senior vice president for medical practice, professionalism and quality at the American College of Physicians and one of the survey's authors.

What the report doesn't address is how to conduct that training, and whether different methods are more effective than others. Timothy Liddell, vice president of deployment at Boston-based healthcare communications network NaviNet, recommends that training be gradual, first letting clinicians get a toe in the water. "Get a physician to interact with the EHR to look up lab results, order entry and communicate with staff, such as phone notes. Then [turn to] the patient note," he suggests. He also recommends that each training session include milestones, so that physicians know what to expect.

The American Medical Association's guidance acknowledges that vendors use different methods for training, including personal and group training on- and off-site, as well as web based training.

Still, the AMA guidance suggests that at least a minimum amount of training is needed, recommending that one should ask how many hours of training are included in the agreement. While the guidance doesn't specify a minimum number of training hours that would be adequate, this new survey may give would-be EHR purchasers a better idea how much training to shoot for.  - Marla