Building Strong Super Users

Experience has shown that forming a solid team of “super users” – those team members who will be your front-line support teams – is critically important for a successful transition to a new or replacement electronic health record (EHR).  All too often, little care or direction are given to selecting and developing these critical contributors to both your initial implementation and to ongoing adoption and optimization.

Recent experience with a large health system in San Francisco demonstrates this. The lead of their EHR training team requested senior leadership commitment to a robust super user program.  The result –  these key members of the team were instrumental to a very smooth, successful go-live.

What are the ingredients to making super users truly super?

  • Clear job descriptions – Would you hire someone without first identifying the key responsibilities?  Of course not.  Before you identify who your super users will be (either internal or external), create a clear job description that includes estimated hours required for: their own training, super users support of training, go-live support hours, and ongoing support of your EHR.
  • Skills and Abilities – After drafting an accurate job description, be sure to use that to select the right super users, based on their skills – not on who might be your favorite on the team.  Conversely, don’t select a poor performer, just to get them out of the way.  It is also important to make certain that they can comfortably approach all types of users, especially health professionals, and that they are skilled listeners that don’t react to user frustrations or concerns.
  • “Art” Classes – No, we’re not going to teach our super users how to paint; the first class a new super user should participate in should be The Art of Being a Super User.  This class addresses the “soft skills” needed to be successful in this support and training role: What is a super user?  How do adults learn?  What if I’m providing support and I don’t know the answer?  How do I handle a frustrated provider?  It’s critical that new super users understand adult learning methodologies before you start to train them on your EHR.
  • A Committed Journey– To completely understand both your new EHR system and their role in training and support, your super users should be “out-of-the-count” (not splitting duties) and have a clear, committed path:
    • Art of Being a Super User
    • Super User EHR training
    • Supporting at least two full rounds of classroom training for their co-workers.
    • Pre-go-live 1:1 support and training to further prepare their teams for implementation.
    • Implementation support.
    • Ongoing training, system testing, new-hire support, etc.

And, don’t forget to keep the super user team intact – they will be also be important to assist the staff with refining best practices, learning new features and functions, and invaluable when you are implementing a future upgrade.  Recognizing this key role and empowering your super users to be effective will pay off significantly not just for go-live, but far beyond your initial implementation.

About the Authors

Dr. Greg Forzley

Dr. Greg Forzley (forzleyg@trinity-health.org) is the Chief Medical Information Officer – Health Networks, Trinity Health, and serves as Chairman of the Michigan State Medical Society. Dr. Forzley has been instrumental in improving physician adoption of EMR systems and is a champion of improving patient care through meaningful use concepts.

Tony Onorad

Mr. Tony Onorad (TonyOnorad@OnoradSolutions.com) is the founder of OnoradSolutions, a knowledge improvement consulting firm, and has been an innovator in the adult learning field for over fifteen years. He has led several complex training projects for a variety of clients.

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Soft Skills for Hard Results: Training EHR Trainers to…Train!

A casual observation of many EHR trainers reveals an unsettling truth: they’re not great classroom trainers. While most possess adequate subject-matter expertise in their given Epic application, their ability to engage learners and facilitate knowledge transfer in the classroom often falls short of what is needed to adequately prepare end users to make a seamless transition to the new system at Go Live.

Most Epic training departments within healthcare organizations spend too little if any time preparing trainers with the soft-skills needed to ensure success in the classroom, concentrating their energies instead on dealing with build issues, rewriting lesson plans and making sure their trainers know the curriculum. All important tasks to be sure, but the unintended consequence is a group of trainers often ill equipped to manage classroom dynamics, facilitate adult learning, or skillfully handle overwhelmed, confused and resistant end users.

The good news is that most of what trainers need to learn can be integrated into a train-the-trainer process that seamlessly complements their Epic training. We start by giving trainers well-written Epic lesson plans and making sure they understand their organization’s unique build and workflows, but we ultimately set them up for success by equipping them with 14 key soft-skill training competencies that differentiate average trainers from great trainers. Specifically, trainers need to know how to:

  1. build rapport, trust and credibility with end users.
  2. hook, engage and motivate learners during classroom sessions.
  3. deliver with impact and make effective use of nonverbal communication—tone, volume, body language, eye contact, gestures, volume, pacing—to keep learners tuned-in and engaged.
  4. optimize learner readiness by helping end users not only understand course objectives, but appreciate how they’ll personally benefit from the new system.
  5. read their audience and teach to all learning styles—auditory, visual, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal—to help end users comprehend, retrain and apply what is taught.
  6. use directional statements effectively to ensure all learners are rowing in the same direction and keeping pace with the instructor.
  7. develop strong in-classroom partnerships with Super Users, who play a vital role in helping latecomers get caught up and helping slower learners get back on track.
  8. use music, icebreakers and energizers appropriately to lighten the mood and create a positive classroom training environment.
  9. ask effective questions to check for understanding and involve learners.
  10. make sure the end user “got it.”
  11. handle questions from learners and use the “parking lot” effectively
  12. help participants navigate through, align with and support the change to Epic.
  13. give end users strategies for simultaneously managing patient care and the PC.
  14. handle difficult, frustrated and confused end users and manage resistance in the classroom to neutralize disruptions and enhance everyone’s learning experience.

The time spent preparing trainers how to train, and not just memorizing lesson plans and studying workflows, pays handsome dividends. Not only are end users better prepared, leading to smoother Go Live events with fewer speed bumps, but ultimately the patient experience is positively impacted, as clinicians and other Epic end users spend less time fumbling through the system and more time paying attention to patient care and safety.

Written by Danny Lewis, Senior Learning and Development Professional