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By Sarah C. Threnhauser

“Everyone wants change, but no one wants TO BE changed. Part of user adoption is connecting this full circle and getting people to use the technology.” – Matthew Chamberlain, Chief Operating Officer, Welligent

For any health and human service organization holding “strategic discussions” about investing in technology, the numbers can look daunting. There are the upfront cost of selection, the technology, process reengineering, retraining, and more (see How To Make The Right Tech Investments For Your Organization: An OPEN MINDS Executive Seminar On Technology Budgeting & Planning, Small Scale Technology Planning & Budgeting: A Roundtable Discussion For Organizations Under $25M, and Structuring (& Budgeting For) Analytics).

But what every executive team is banking on is that they can get a return on investment (ROI) that makes the technology is not just an expense, but really a strategic investment. Calculating the ROI is the easy part—In All That Tech Spending, Don’t Forget The ROI, For Telehealth, The ROI Is Where You Plan For It, and On-Line Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: The Return-On-Investment For Health Plans . But getting the ROI that is projected is the challenge.

That challenge was the focus of The 2018 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute session, A Progressive Approach to User Adoption: Transitioning From Paper To Digital In An I/DD Setting, led by Mr. Chamberlain and Embassy Management executives Kendra Ellis, Executive Director, and Michael M. Hailye, Chief Information Officer. Mr. Chamberlain said, “We all have something we spend money on and we intend to get value out of it. But if you aren’t using the new tech efficiently, you aren’t going to get that value.” He recommended a few key steps to optimize the value of new technology—a framework for implementation that establishes clear and concrete goals for technology adoption; buy-in from key leadership and staff members; a progressive staff training program; continuous process improvement; and measurement of system performance.

(from left to right); Kendra Ellis, Michael M. Hailye, and Matthew Chamberlain at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute

Ms. Ellis and Mr. Hailye provided a great case study of how these core elements can result in a successful implementation of a new electronic health record (EHR). Embassy Management is a large, multi-state family of companies that provides home- and community-based services to adults and children with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) in Washington, Idaho, California, and Oregon. Their broad service lines and geographic areas presented some unique technology implementation challenges.

Conducting a pilot program to test the implementation model

After selecting Welligent as their EHR partner, Embassy Management built a strategy for adoption that focused on getting buy-in from staff to move the implementation forward. Part of that plan was conducting a pilot program at 24 sites with supported living programs for adults across three states to work on enhancing the EHR software for optimal support of the program. The pilot focused on the user interface design, reporting dashboards, and integrated data systems to support ease of navigation and use by staff.

Taking the technology to scale and getting buy-in from staff

The pilot created an ongoing feedback loop with staff and enabled continuous improvement and enhancements to the system. For example, Embassy used laptops and partnered with Welligent to build an auditor portal, so that auditors could come in and see different areas. This in turn promoted greater commitment to the use of the EHR from the staff, and support scale across the system. Besides implementation training, there is deep dive training for program supers and above, before it was scaled out to direct support professional training.

Ms. Ellis explained, “We addressed the challenges we identified early. We wanted to get buy in and commitment. And we wanted to convince the staff that it would improve their jobs. We also wanted to build a return-on-investment (ROI) over time and identify the things to measure to show that ROI both in quality services and cost.”

Team adoption of the new technology and continuous training

Staff training also plays a big role in gaining widespread technology adoption across an organization. Embassy Management’s system for staff training included: training new hires on day one of employment; with initial training taking place all in-person and monthly “refresher” training thereafter. In addition, they hired Subject Matter Experts (SME) in each city/program to help staff with on-going questions, as well as creating a “Quality Improvement” team who can help guide correct documentation methods and compliance. Mr. Hailye explained, “The message is, you aren’t done after the initial training. There is additional training, retraining, new hire training. Subject matter experts have been helpful to see who isn’t using the system the way it needs to be used. This feedback loop is great for understanding whether the system is working or not.”

For more on the role of staff adoption and training on technology ROI, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:

  1. Do You Have A Leadership Strategy For Tech ROI?
  2. More Tools For Tech ROI
  3. Talent Management For A New Paradigm
  4. Strategic Talent Management In A New Era
  5. Finding The Tech Talent You Need
  6. Workforce and Succession Planning – Toolkit to Identify and Address Strategic Talent Gaps
  7. Talent Management in a Changing Environment: Workforce Developments to Note in Human Capital Strategy Development
  8. How To Improve The ROI Of Your EHR: Optimizing Your Technology Investment
  9. Using Virtual Care To Improve Your Value Proposition: Best Practices In Integrating Technology Into Your Community-Based Program
  10. Your Digital Tech Integration Checklist

And for more on choosing the right tech to begin with, join OPEN MINDS Senior Associate Joseph P. Naughton-Travers, Ed.M. for his Executive Seminar, Making The Right Tech Investments For Your Organization: An Executive Seminar On Technology Budgeting & Planning, on February 13 in Clearwater, Florida.

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