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The Role of Communications in Electronic Health Records

Thursday, November 5, 2015 1:28:00 PM

by Angela Harless

Angela Harless

Preparing for and launching an electronic health record (EHR) is a challenge that should be supported by the organization’s communications department, operations, and clinical teams. If your communications team hasn’t been involved in the launch of your organization’s EHR – whether it’s a Cerner, EPIC, athenahealth, or another system – it’s time to get involved.

The communications department has a number of reasons to get involved, including those listed below. If you have other ideas on how or why communications can assist with the integration of medical records, please share them in the comments section.

Physician/Staff Buy-In
Major changes in how your organization operates are painful for everyone involved, including physicians and staff. The communications team can assist with education and adoption of new software and processes through frequent updates and training. Consider:

- An initiative-specific newsletter to provide updates, tips, training times, etc.
- In-hospital communications, such as posters and table tents in staff areas
- Cheat sheets next to every interface to aid in adoption and boost engagement
- Talking points for senior leaders so messaging is consistent throughout the organization

Patient Benefit
Patients benefit greatly from integrated health records, but they won’t know it unless you tell them. EHR often facilitates the launch of a patient portal, which gives patients more control and options for their own health records. Encourage enrollment and explain benefits clearly and concisely. Patients are more likely to be receptive when they receive messages at or near the time of medical services. Think beyond mass media communications and rely heavily on point-of-service messages in physician offices and throughout the hospital.

Equip Staff and Physicians
If patients asked their doctors or nurses why they should enroll in the patient portal, what would their response be? It is up to the communications department to educate staff on answering questions or, better yet, push adoption of the patient portal. Consider developing a toolkit to distribute to physician practices. This kit will build excitement while educating staff. Some friendly competition among practices based on new patient portal sign-ups may also be a fun incentive. The toolkit could include:
- Branded box/packaging
- Introduction letter (include contest details, if needed)
- Buttons/lapel pins to entice patients to ask staff about the patient portal
- Window clings/posters/table tents
- Rack cards/brochures for patients
- Pens/Post-it notes or similar items as reminders

If you have a success story that you would like to share, please include it in the comments section.
Angela Harless is a managing partner at AcrobatAnt, a Tulsa, OK, group of creative problem solvers with deep healthcare expertise. From health system rebranding to service line campaigns to internal cultural initiatives, the company plans and executes strategies based on measurable goals. Harless can be reached at and 918-938-7912.



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