In 2019, to be in business is to be in the technology business. That’s true whether you’re selling computers, cars, or carpets. The businesses that best integrate the latest technology with operations is often also the one positioned for success.
The same is true of health care, which can be especially entrenched in its established ways of operating. For example, when German cardiologist Andreas Roland Grüntzig presented his idea for balloon angioplasties in 1976 to clear blockages in the heart, he was told, “It’ll never work.” Now, the surgery is performed more than a million times per year, roughly as common as knee replacements.
Similarly, there was some reluctance regarding fully computerized medical records a decade ago when Penn Medicine began developing and integrating its uniform platform for clinical and patient information. But the technology developed by the Epic Corporation that came to be known as PennChart, along with the teams that worked together to put it into place, have earned Penn Medicine the highest honor for outpatient electronic medical record (EMR) implementation: Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Analytics Stage 7.
“The HIMSS Analytics assessment recognizes an organization’s adoption and utilization of its electronic medical record,” explained Michael Restuccia, Penn Medicine’s senior vice president and chief information officer. “It’s the highest recognition of health care IT an organization can receive and it is a big deal for Penn Medicine.”
Through a collaboration between Restuccia’s Information Services team and clinical and business partners across the health system, PennChart’s successful implementation has enabled achievements such as:
- Reducing patient readmissions
- Enhancing patient satisfaction to attain the top level for patient/provider communications
- 100 percent electronic provider access to all clinical patient data and images
- Securely sharing 6.2 million patient records with other medical institutions in the United States
- Engaging over 500,000 patients in the myPennMedicine portal, which allows patients to connect with their physicians, request prescription refills, and review test results and other parts of their medical record
All of this came through years of careful installation, training, and updates. While the implementation of PennChart—which quite literally affects operations throughout the health system every minute of every day—was intimidating, it was done to great success.
Here, Restuccia shares some of the wisdom he gained through the process for how any business can implement technology on such a large scale.
1. Be Ready for the Frustration
“The journey to the maximum level of adoption and utilization for technology like this will be fraught with frustration more often than triumph. Change is difficult for anyone, but it is particularly difficult for people who are busy and constantly being pulled in multiple directions. For us, that was physicians, but many businesses have people in similar time crunches with competing needs. There are many pieces to the tech implementation puzzle, and all come at a cost—with many far exceeding senior leadership’s budgetary expectations.”
2. Celebrate the Good Times
“Given the inevitable frustrations, celebrate the small victories—and really, really celebrate the larger ones. Taking a few moments to celebrate the successes helps recalibrate the team, validates their importance to the organization, prepares them for the next step of the journey, and reminds them why they are a part of this perilous endeavor.”
3. This is a Team Sport
“To implement a wide-reaching technology change, an interdisciplinary team consisting of infrastructure, desktop support, application support, and operational engagement is required in order to have any chance for success. All teams must work together in a collaborative manner, guided by an influential governance committee and experienced leadership that clearly communicates goals, pace, direction, sequence, etc.”
4. Peer Pressure is the Energizer Bunny
“At their core, physicians are competitive with other physicians both within their practice as well as those outside of it. Identifying and recognizing the physicians that have eagerly adopted the EMR and achieved success in patient care, population health management or research was like injecting the others with pure energy. No physician wants to be out-done by another physician in anything!”
“But that isn’t a trait that’s unique to physicians. I’m sure that most people can think of their co-workers or employees who are most competitive with each other. Highlighting the efforts and positive outcomes of early adopters is like gravity. They won’t be able to resist it.”
5. Remember the Positive
“Remember the days (just a few years back, really) when a physician spent as much time searching for a patient’s medical chart or attempting to read an unreadable fax as they did having face-to-face time with their patient? Today, we are seamlessly sharing—via PennChart—patient data amongst physician practices to ensure coordinated patient care is optimizing outcomes, engaging patients in their care, improving overall satisfaction, and leveraging data to proactively address patient care issues. Those are the good things we did by persevering through implementation.”
“Whatever your team is working on, remember your project goals and why they’re worth the journey.”