To implement Epic as a hospital’s EHR provider on time and on budget, CIOs should strongly consider hiring a subject matter expert to tackle the integral role of interface manager. Though it’s possible to train existing staff on Epic interoperability, a project of this scope and complexity requires an in-depth knowledge and a range of skills most hospital staff do not possess. CIOs should consider the following to ensure they are able to meet their go-live dates and eliminate costly mistakes throughout the interfacing portion of the implementation.
Epic Bridges Leave Knowledge Gaps
Epic requires every employee assigned to a project to be certified on the Epic system. When it comes to interoperability, those team members must attend Epic Bridges classes. Since interoperability is the number one reason why implementations fail, it stands to reason that Bridges courses would be intensive.
However, the course itself lasts only two weeks and staff gain certification simply by passing an exam. While this lays a solid foundation, it is hardly enough to ensure that a person is qualified or experienced enough to effectively manage vendor interfaces.
Successful interfacing requires technical skill, to be sure, but it also requires leadership skills, project management skills, and intangible soft skills for working with people. Bridges certification indicates that a professional is now familiar with Epic interoperability, but that certification is neither a guarantee of competency nor a substitute for leadership experience.
Interface Managers: A Study in Contrasting Approaches
Many CIOs take Epic at its word that Bridges certification is sufficient to manage interfacing – and when there are failures in interoperability, those same CIOs can’t pinpoint their origins. Consider these two contrasting approaches:
When a hospital trains existing staff or brings in temporary staff to be Bridges certified, those team members will return with excellent baseline knowledge of Epic interoperability. However, having never actually worked on an Epic project, they will not know how to prioritize anywhere from 50 to 200 vendors (or more), how to engage vendors in the interfacing process, how to “drop the hammer” if vendors aren’t responsive, or how to align everything so that systems are ready to pass integrated testing and go live.
On the other hand, experienced integration managers will have worked on a number of Epic implementations. They are well-versed in hospital operations and workflow and know how to prioritize vendors to get their systems properly interfaced. They have strong working relationships with those vendors, know how to get what they need from them and how to bridge communication between the CIO, vendors, and team members. They know the common pitfalls of interoperability, and can develop proactive plans to help the hospital avoid them. They will keep tight deadlines, meet go-live dates and ensure resources are well spent.
The attributes of an experienced Epic integration manager cannot be taught in a Bridges classroom. They can only be gained over time, and as a result of working on multiple projects. Unfortunately, Epic’s best practices do not stress this importance to CIOs. Many find out too late that they took the wrong approach to staffing their integration teams. Rather than relying on Epic to provide guidance, CIOs should seek out the advice and the knowledge of experienced Epic interoperability partners so that they can get the right integration manager in place to ensure a successful implementation.