Roadblock: Doctors and Other Skilled Professionals

By John McCormick Print this article Print

Ways to get professionals to use new computer systems.

The Obstacle
As Cincinnati Children's Hospital began to track patient care by computer, the deployment team knew some physicians would resist adopting communication by keyboard and screen. Long accustomed to scribbling a few lines on a patient chart or prescription pad, the hospital's doctors were not going to readily spend up to 15 or 20 minutes typing patient background, assessments and treatment plans into a computer. Another worry: Doctors, as a group, are highly paid, highly educated and highly self-reliant. However, whenever a new system is deployed, there comes a time when at least some users feel helpless or confused—two sensations doctors aren't used to feeling or likely to admit to having.

So, how does a hospital—or any organization with a large number of highly skilled, highly educated workers—train professionals to use a new computer system?

The Response
Get 'em when they come in the door. Cincinnati Children's put computer training into the orientation program for new doctors. The training staff found little resistance from new employees, who assumed that a working knowledge of the system was just part of the job. It also helped that orientation is usually a time when people are likely to be in the proper frame of mind to learn new systems and procedures.

Work the doctors' schedules. Doctors are busy people who have constant demands on their time from patients, nurses and hospital administrators. The trainers at Cincinnati Children's felt that it was important to set up training sessions on the doctors' times. As an academic institution, doctors gather in the morning and evening for educational conferences, and the training staff convinced the chief resident to include systems training during those gatherings.

Keep it short. Cincinnati Children's realized that veteran doctors weren't likely to carve out a couple of hours in a day to train. The hospital worked with the doctors to find gaps—sometimes as short as 10 minutes—to provide task-specific instructions, such as drug ordering, that they absolutely had to know. "Do what is important to them," advises Marty Goodfriend, a registered nurse and a lead systems analyst at Cincinnati Children's.

Go one-on-one. Goodfriend says that during initial deployment, the hospital stationed systems support people and nurses who were expert in the system in the units. When a doctor came over to use the system, help was only a confused glance away.

This article was originally published on 2004-08-01
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