Tips for getting physician buy-in to new IT

Tips for getting physician buy-in to new IT

April 29, 2014 | Diana Manos, Senior Editor

WASHINGTON – “If you build it,” Edith Dees said of technology and doctors, “they won’t necessarily come.”

Many healthcare organizations learned that while implementing electronic health records systems and those lessons will come in handy when bolting on newer technologies, such as analytics and clinical decision support tools.

Dees, the CIO of Holy Spirit Health System, explained that getting doctors up to speed on new IT products and services takes coordination, diplomacy and empathy. What’s more, doctors don’t like to think they need to be told to do anything, according to Susan Kressly, MD, founding partner at Kressly Pediatrics.

“It’s like herding cats to get doctors to change, so be careful how you engage doctors and create a partnership with them,” she says. “Pretend it’s an 80-20 partnership in the doctor’s direction and you’ll get where you want to go.”

Richard Schreiber, MD, chief medical informatics officer at Holy Spirit Health System says it’s important to find out what works best for each doctor. “The ‘how’ is the most important part” of motivating the change, he added at the Healthcare Business Intelligence Forum hosted by HIMSS Media and Healthcare IT News.

A good starting point is a low-risk conversation that generates interest rather than making physicians or IT workers feel daunted, suggested Actian Healthcare general manager Lance Speck, particularly when delving into something as seemingly intimidating as predictive analytics.

“Simply ask the question ‘do we use science to analyze our data?’” Speck recommended. Since doctors have health data, and many have the means to analyze it, there is no reason not to be doing so.

Dees said it is best to build in a support plan because doctors generally do better with one-on-one training “at the elbow.” Include an escalation plan to use if decisions about the project cannot be made at lower management levels. Bake it into the project methodology, Rees advised. Also, set up a provider hotline for your doctors, to help them with tasks like resetting passwords that might be necessary but hassle enough to discourage progress. “Anything we can do to support our doctors directly impacts patient care,” Dees added.

Kressly urged attendees to keep in mind how much pressure doctors are under. They are “on” all day worrying about keeping patients safe and don’t want to have any of their attention shift from that main goal, for fear it will compromise care.

Drawing on those lessons learned during EHR implementation, the presenters all called for a tight communication plan that focuses on doctors. Rather than selling an EHR for its potential to improve billing, for instance, focus on what a particular technology can help doctors do their jobs. “You’ll grab a doctor’s attention if you advocate for their patient,” Kressly said.

She also suggested eagerly listening to the rank and file, establishing a physician IT champion, applying continuous incremental change, and demonstrate how the technology, be it an EHR, clinical decision support, or predictive analytics can help them better treat patients. “Allow the doctors to see the power of the data,” Kressly said.

Checking back with physicians after the initial training is key, Schreiber advised, because “you have to learn how the learner learns.”

Then, you can identify quick wins and apply those to advocate for new technologies.

“After that success, get a full check-up at your organization. Where are the areas you could improve care and lower costs?” Speck said. “Get a full diagnosis. Prioritize and build a path. See what kind of outcomes you can improve.”