The other thing that might happen if a doctor is not proficient in the use of the hospital’s EHR is that he might be inclined to consult the hospitalist “just to cover all the bases.” In this case, that might be the same as asking the hospitalist to be involved as an EHR expert, rather than for medical expertise that the patient needs.
I practice at a hospital that recently installed a new information system, and some doctors have joked that if they can’t figure out how to use it, they will just consult a hospitalist to look up historical data, etc. I’m not aware of any study looking at this issue, but I suspect “soft” hospitalist consults increase when a hospital installs a new information system.
Rethink New Employee Orientation
I’m convinced that new doctors in all specialties that anticipate having a hospital patient volume above a predetermined threshold should be required to have a formal orientation to the hospital, especially for its information system. This is really important for hospitalists. Every practice should think carefully about a meaningful process of orientation to the hospital and the hospitalist practice itself. The latter would include things like scheduling issues, training in CPT coding, group governance and culture, etc.
My experience is that multistate hospitalist companies have pretty detailed orientation programs; for one thing, they can use this as a differentiator when marketing their services. But private hospitalist practices and groups employed by a single hospital usually have a pretty loose orientation process. It is tricky to find the sweet spot between valuable orientation activities and so much detail that the new doctor is overwhelmed or bored, and unlikely to remember much of what is presented.
And there certainly is a role for waiting to learn some things as the new doctor begins seeing patients. For example, my feeling is that a general orientation to the floor plan is sufficient and the new hire can best learn the details independently during the course of patient care. However, all hospitalists should have some reasonable level of proficiency in the EHR before seeing their first patients.
If you accept my premise that hospitals were once reasonably similar, like one rental car to another, but have now become as complex and different as jumbo jets, then we’re led to another question: Will we one day decide that a doctor must be certified to practice in a particular hospital by demonstrating knowledge and competence in that particular hospital’s systems and procedures?
Nearly all present-day credentialing and privileging related to a doctor’s work in a hospital focus on that doctor’s prior training and experience. In the case of pilots, there is a requirement to demonstrate proficiency when making a transition to a new airplane.
Maybe an analogous system of certification for a doctor to “fly” each hospital would be valuable for our patients. If training might not make sense for all doctors, then perhaps limit it to those, such as hospitalists, who will have a really high patient volume at the facility.
It would be dizzyingly complex to create and referee such a certification system, so I’m not sure anything like this will happen in my career. And the last thing I want is another set of bureaucratic hurdles.
But it might be worth thinking about how to ensure doctors at a particular hospital are expert enough in that hospital’s unique systems and operations. Start with your group’s orientation process. TH