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Curbside Consult with Dr. Jayne 5/1/17

May 1, 2017 Dr. Jayne 3 Comments

I’m doing some work with a health system that is migrating multiple hospital and ambulatory systems to a single instance of Epic. They have contracted with a number of third-party vendors to keep the proverbial lights on with their legacy applications while the core teams are incorporated into the Epic team.

At times, it’s been heartbreaking to watch. The Epic project team forced longstanding qualified employees to go through rounds of personality testing and interviewing, only to be denied an opportunity to join the Epic project. I’m personally happy to have these so-called “rejected employees” as part of the team that’s keeping things running because they have extensive experience and knowledge as well as being good people. It’s a shame that the health system has some mold they’re trying to fill for the Epic team because they’ve missed out on some talent.

I’m handling some clinical and regulatory work for the ambulatory applications, but another third party is handling any development work that is needed. There’s more development than I would have expected this close to a migration. The health system continues to purchase independent practices and wants to bring them live on EHR for reporting reasons. They are developing specialty-specific documentation templates that I’m pretty sure are never going to get used because they are for high-dollar subspecialists who prefer to dictate their documentation and aren’t going to sit and do a bunch of clicking just because an administrator asks them to. I’m confident their acquisition contracts didn’t include data entry, so the template development is a bit of a wasted enterprise to begin with.

The third-party development partner uses offshore resources and availability for meetings is an issue. I’m watching the stateside analysts pull their hair out because they’re being asked to get on calls at 10 p.m. local time to accommodate the offshore analysts, who have contractual limitations regarding calls during non-working hours. The US managers are aggravated because the most expensive resources are being stressed out by the hours. The analysts fear for their jobs if they don’t comply since they’ve already been passed over for slots on the Epic team and are likely to be candidates for a layoff after the go-live.

Apparently no one thought about these factors when they signed the agreement with the development partner, but I bet they will think about it next time. It’s just particularly sad because, again, they’re spending a lot of resources on templates that aren’t going to be used (and even if they are used, it will only be for a few months). They’re also burning out dedicated workers who have served the healthcare system for years and have a lot to offer.

I’ve made the suggestion that they should halt the development project, create a stripped down data entry template, and then hire a couple of medical students or nursing students to do the data entry from the providers’ dictated notes each day. It would be more cost effective and create better goodwill for everyone involved, but of course no one is listening to the person who is best positioned to understand provider psychology, habits, and workflows.

I have to say that one of the more frustrating aspects of being a consultant is being expendable. If I was the CMIO or a medical director, my opinions might have more impact. But when you have two consultants contradicting each other, there’s some cognitive effort required to untangle the issues, which it seems some health systems aren’t eager to do.

I find this situation particularly ironic. Where I’m trying to save them money, aggravation, and employee morale, the other consultant is trying to sell them something that’s going to cost money, time, and frustration. It should be an easy decision, but healthcare decision-making is often less than straightforward. It seems to be an easier decision to do what has already been started rather than raise questions.

This situation also illustrates something I’m seeing more often, which is organizations that have so many consultants in the mix that they need resources just to manage the consultants and their activities. Different parts of the organization may have their own consultants doing the same work, or it may be contradictory. I’ve watched the office equivalent of a steel cage match when consultants hired by the finance team face off against those hired by the clinical team. One of the combatants will inevitably tag out to the IT team, which may be allying itself with one or both of the other teams depending on which way the organizational winds are blowing.

There is a lot of time, money, and energy wasted in these non-coordinated approaches, but I’ve seen multiple situations where no one is willing to step in and stop the madness. I try to do my best (within the confines of my engagement and the personal relationships I’ve built at the organization, of course) to calm things down where I think I can make a difference, but it’s definitely challenging.

When I see these situations, it generally points to a larger problem with organizational leadership and a lack of executive sponsorship at the appropriate level. When organizations are having functional leadership meetings and various teams have a common understanding of organizational goals and budgetary and time constraints, the situations are much more productive. Teams with potentially competing initiatives can actually talk to each other and work together for a solution that creates common ground rather than succumbing to an “us vs. them” mentality.

With my current client, I’m hoping that while doing engagements to support their legacy software, I’ll be able to build relationships and the political capital needed to approach them with an engagement around the change leadership and management challenges that are the root of many of their struggles.

Unfortunately, it feels like they see the move to Epic as the be-all, end-all that is going to solve their problems. It may solve some problems, but it’s going to create new ones that they’re not expecting, or exacerbate underlying issues that they may have overlooked. History tends to repeat itself in these situations and I would love to see greater information sharing among those in the trenches so that they can avoid the pitfalls that I see over and over. There’s only so much I can do from the consulting perspective, but I’m going to keep trying.

How many consultants are involved at your organization? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. I work for a vendor and have seen instances of this too. So many consultants are great to work with but it seems to be the ones with the worst advice that get listened to first.

  2. There are hundreds of successful Epic implementations and almost none of the successful ones use scribes.

    In fact those that do failed to change workflows and were trying to accommodate the 58 year old doctors and duplicating a paper process and don’t grasp the basics of how to use healthIT. I predict a failed go live.

  3. As a physician liaison nearly twenty-years ago at a major healthcare system implementing a complete set of HIT features, i.e. CPOE, order sets, results, rules, structured doc, etc. the project met much resistance by physicians (an understatement). At a high-level meeting discussing the “challenges”, I merely suggested putting CPOE, rules, etc. on-hold and implementing system-wide results reporting first because THAT’S WHAT EVERYONE LIKED, even 58 year-old physicians. You could hear a pin drop and watch jaws dropping because that was heresy from the standpoint of the CIO and the vendor execs who sold him “the dream”. Well, the dream was never realized, the CIO given a golden parachute, and eventually the system was ripped out, and replaced by – you guessed it – Epic. No one listens, especially those who bet their careers on hyperbole, and your story, 20 years later is indeed sad.

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