In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was signed into law to promote the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology.

While the Act provides billions in incentive payments to physician practices, hospitals and healthcare organizations to expand digital access to health records, most major health systems underestimate the time, energy and costs associated with implementing Electronic Medical Record (EMR) and Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems.

So how can hospitals tackle the obstacles of implementing these health records, and more importantly, EMR training?

The answer is virtual EMR and EHR training.

In virtual EMR and EHR training, hospitals use a technology known as virtual instructor-led training—or VILT—to provide EMR or EHR training on the cloud.

The Barriers and the Solutions

A recent Institute of Medicine study, titled Barriers of Adopting EHRs by Physicians, studied physicians’ resistance to EHR adoption. These challenges included absence of computer skills, time, training, cost, technical support, workflow disruption, and security/privacy concerns.

While virtual training of EMRs can’t manage every challenge associated with adopting EMRs, it can tackle many. For example:

Absence of Computer Skills

The Institute of Medicine study found that EMR providers underestimate the level of computer skills required by physicians. These computer skills tend to be weak among doctors because historically, doctors focused primarily on understanding the intricacies of the human body—computer use and medical software training was limited to clerical and paramedical staff.

However, with medical records quickly being converted from paper to digital, today’s doctors must be fully equipped for this transition.

And serious problems can arise without this digital knowledge, such as in the case of Dr. Steven Kottemann, an Illinois doctor who was removed from his job for failure to use the Memorial Health System’s electronic medical record system.

According to Kottemann, he had no computer skills before his employer switched to an all-electronic medical records system, and he fell behind on handling his patient’s records. He said he was accused of creating “a liability for the clinic.” However, Dr. Rajesh Govindaiah, Memorial’s Chief Medical Officer, said that the hospital did provide Dr. Kottemann additional training. The two sides are at an impasse.

VILT takes a lack of computer skills into account when delivering courses. In fact, many VILT platforms offer a help queue, which allows students to ask questions. In addition, it is common for VILT classes to provide an assistant instructor, who can assist students with technical issues and questions.

VILT involves virtual training labs—also known as hosted labs or hosted training. These labs are critical in creating realistic, hands-on exercises that give physicians the medical software training they need to be comfortable with the EMR/EHR system when it’s time to work on it in real-life.

Because learning by doing has been proven to be essential in knowledge retention (when compared to only listening and watching), virtual training labs help physicians achieve performance fluency in many ways:
  • VILT provides numerous interactive teaching tools, such as Whiteboards, Breakout Groups and Assessments, which can turn an EMR training program into an interactive and relevant learning experience.
  • After sharing the basics, instructors can show physicians “how to do it” by sharing their desktop and demoing how to use the hospital’s EMR or EHR software.
  • Instructors can give physicians the opportunity to practice using virtual training labs. This hands-on practice can go a long way in terms of helping the physician get comfortable with the hospital’s information system.
VILT emulates the way humans are meant to learn—which is by doing. By incorporating virtual training labs into the EMR platform, instructors can help physicians become successful in a very short period of time.

Time and Training

According to the Institute of Medicine study, physicians do not take the time to become familiar with the hospital computer system or to train on it. In addition, insufficient training was often identified as a barrier to EMR use.

An important reason for this is a distributed workforce. Many physician practices are distributed geographically, which means that physicians and staff must travel long distances for training, causing a decline in productivity, as well as a decrease in the amount of medical services the physician can administer.

However, VILT offers convenience and flexibility because physicians can attend scheduled, instructor-led courses from their home or office—or take self-paced courses from anywhere and anytime.

With VILT, there is no inconvenience from travel, such as missing actual work or managing lost productivity from traveling to training locations.

Cost

The Institute of Medicine study found that physicians were extremely concerned about costs. For small- to medium-sized practices without large IT budgets, costs were the biggest barrier to adoption. The high up-front financial costs of implementing EMRs were a primary barrier to adoption.

In addition to the costs related to EHR implementation and maintenance, end users—physicians, clinical staff and non-clinical staff—need an average of 134 hours per person to prepare for use of the hospital’s information system in clinical encounters, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

One way to save money is to use VILT to train end users because there is an additional cost savings that comes directly from using virtual training. In fact, virtual training can save a hospital’s training department a significant amount of money. Statistics show that training departments can save between $9,550 and $15,870 by moving one course from a traditional classroom to VILT. This includes the cost of technology, travel and transportation costs.

Technical Support

Some physicians believed EMR support staff to be knowledgeable and helpful, but others were concerned that staff was unavailable for technical support, according to the Institute of Medicine study.

While technical support may be a challenge for some physicians using EMRs, it is not an issue when it comes to training.

VILT requires physicians to possess basic tech skills (such as how to connect to the Internet and navigate a browser), but many tools are very easy to use. And many platforms offer tutorials and help guides in case of problems.

In addition, it is common for classes to provide an assistant instructor. Assistant instructors enable the primary instructor to focus on delivering the course content, while the assistant instructor can focus on troubleshooting technical issues that students may encounter. So if your physicians are anxious about using VILT for EMR or EHR training, remind them that VILT classes come with support and technical assistance.


The bottom line is that EMRs and EHRs not only help hospitals improve care of their patients, but also provide significant competitive advantages.

Unfortunately, many facilities are not able to experience these advantages because of the challenges associated with EMR and EHR implementation. But the use of VILT can tackle these challenges.

VILT gives physicians the freedom to learn wherever it is convenient for them—and makes learning accessible to all students. Additionally, if a self-paced course is available, physicians also have the freedom to take the class whenever and wherever it’s convenient for them. By removing the barriers of time and geography to learning, online training software helps enhance EMR and EHR systems training—without sacrificing learning effectiveness.