The decision has been made…your practice is switching to a new medical records program or practice information management system (PIMS). This can lead to a lot of questions and anxiety, but with proper planning and a strong team, you can set your practice up for success!
Making the Switch
Practices look for new PIMS for many reasons. Jeremy Bennet, Project Manager at eVetPractice, states, “Practices face a lot of challenges, and their new medical record system should be something that removes these challenges and makes their lives easier.”
This may include anything from improving clinical workflow to increasing the number of new or returning clients to generating revenue. It’s important to select a PIMS that works well for your clinic.
Bennet reminds, “Ease of use has to translate into really easy for the staff to find their way around because turnover is real and any additional stressors lead to more turnover.”
Plan for the switch to take at least four weeks if starting from scratch; longer if you’ll be moving data over from an existing system. This timeline allows for data migration, configuration and training.
Camille Fulton, with Implementation Special Forces at ezyVet, advises practices to select a project team that will help drive the change: “Regardless of timeframe, we recommend designating a project team within the hospital who are responsible for different deliverables. Dedicating the time to set the software up prior will make the transition easier as well.”
Keys to Success
Success during this transition is dependent on two key areas: deadlines and communication. Deadlines will be extremely important to your project team, but also to everyone at the clinic. These deadlines can be broken into three main categories: data migration, training and going live.
- Data migration will begin early and is often best broken into smaller tasks amongst a core group. Work closely with your PIMS support team to determine what information is needed when.
- Training of the entire staff should begin approximately one month prior to going live with your new PIMS. Plan for multiple training events throughout that month to cover all necessary material.
- Set the critical date of going live. This will be a big day at the practice for both staff and clients. It will be important to schedule appropriately around this event to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Everyone at a practice can appreciate the power of clear communication. Once a new PIMS has been selected, this is a great time to announce the upcoming change to everyone during a staff meeting. During this time, show a promotional video that showcases the new features of the system.
“When the staff are brought into the change, they will be excited to move forward and make the transition a success. But change is difficult, hence support from management is also key for them to feel encouraged,” says Fulton.
Be sure to announce major deadlines that pertain to everyone. This helps staff to appreciate the work that is going into the switch as well as establish an understanding about how long the process will take. The most important deadline for the clinic as a whole is the “go live” date. If any changes to deadlines occur, be sure to let staff know to limit confusion.
Training the Team
Following the announcement of the switch and the initial promotional video, there will be a pause before the majority of the staff resume preparing for the new PIMS. If possible during this time, make that video available to staff so they can reference back to it as the deadline approaches. It is recommended to begin training modules about a month prior to going live. Your PIMS support team will be able to help direct this process.
Following the modules, create a demo account that staff can use to try out the new system. Create tasks that have to be completed on the demo account that staff will be expected to do right out of the gate. This may include using the calendar, creating an invoice or adding a new patient. Having this familiarity and hands-on experience will be extremely beneficial on launch day.
Be sure to set aside time for each staff member to sit down and complete the required training. The day-to-day in a veterinary clinic can be so overwhelming that it is easy to push off training, but that will become a regret on the first day of the new system.
Many PIMS will recommend a live training session with one of their trainers about a week before going live. This is a great time to refresh staff on the most important aspects of the new system. Be sure to allow ample time for staff to ask questions during the live training, as this is the best opportunity for them to interact directly with the people that know the new system best.
Additional role-specific training may be completed after going live. This will help staff members to really excel in their roles with the new PIMS. There may be functions within the system that aren’t utilized on a day-to-day basis, but will become more important as time passes.
Time to “Go Live”
“The first few weeks are going to be challenging to staff as they get familiar with the new system. Setting the expectation with the staff and having resources to help staff will make a big difference,” Bennet advises.
It’s important to set your practice up for success during this launch period. Having designated go-to people to help troubleshoot problems will be a huge help.
“During the setup you can utilize some of your strongest team members as hospital ‘Super Users,’ as we call them. These are staff members who have had additional training early in the project and will be available as peers to help others with the transition,” says Fulton.
It’s often recommended to lighten the schedule during the first few days when going live. This will give your team some much-needed additional time as they adjust to the new workflow.
Don’t forget to let your clients know what is going on during this time, too. If your practice utilizes a newsletter, prepare your clients for the switch before it happens. Post signage around the clinic asking clients for patience as the team adjusts to a new system. If there are new features that will benefit your clients, include this information on the signage as well.
Last but not least—celebrate with the team! Fulton encourages continuing the good vibes throughout the first week to keep morale high; she suggests giveaways and a positive shout-out board to acknowledge everyone’s hard work. Your clinic may elect to cater lunch that day or host a happy hour after work to reward everyone for a job well done.
A change of this magnitude can be a challenge, but with proper planning your practice will be enjoying the benefits of the new PIMS in no time. +