EMR Adoption: Framing the Questions to Help Each Other


There are good questions and there are not-so-good questions. Well, more accurately, there are good and not-so-good ways to ask questions (because, as they say, there are no bad questions).

Asking questions during training or orientation is a common thing and I’ve heard good and not-so-good ways of asking questions in both. We’ve all heard questions such as, “Why do we always have to…” or, “I really hate it when I try to do this and that happens…” The approach and tone of questions put this way can immediately put the trainer on the defense as they first are asked to explain the rationale behind a behavior that’s disagreeable.

While it’s all well and good to vent what’s unproductive or irritating, during the session is not the time and place to do it. Everyone must either sit through the complaint and tolerate it being asked, or join in and jump on the question’s bandwagon. Neither bring a quick response to the question. (This is not to say that complaints and negative feedback aren’t to be given, they absolutely should be! But usually, unless it’s one of the relatively rare moments when everyone in the room says, “That’s right!” when a complaint is made in a session, not-so-good questions are a diversion.)

Nothing stops a good training pace like someone taking a personal agenda and poses it to the trainer. “Why do I have to go through three screens to order a lab, gosh what a pain,” puts the trainer on the defense and does nothing for the others in the room that want to learn the way to get to the lab order screen and get back to their regular work.

Maybe a better way to ask that same question, would be something like, “Is there a shortcut or favorite key that I can create that will let me order a lab with one click?” This brings the conversation to productive discovery quicker than going through the mire of the complaint. It shows cooperation and a desire to find a better way of doing things.

Another way of asking a good question is to frame it in a way that empowers your expertise. In other words, “What can I do or who can I talk to to have less numbers of screens in order to print” is not only giving a better tone than, “We waste so much time going through the print screens, it takes a lot of time away from seeing patients” it also points a way to possible improvement. And it’s a subtle invitation to others in the room to join in on the improvement if one’s available.

Asking with positive action empowers your expertise as it reaches out to the trainer, who’s usually from IT, and seeks to make a connection between departments. It also helps with your connections within the company. Nothing like the nurse who everybody remembers when she made that searing complaint in training that had everybody rolling their eyes.

As training sessions are pretty much a requirement throughout our careers, using good ways to ask questions is a great tool. As Jennifer Thew, RN, MSJ, says in her recent article, “The ‘Us’ vs ‘Them’ Mentality is Toxic for EMR Adoption,” asking your question in a “How can I do this better” frame empowers you in a variety of situations and will always lead to a more productive end.

As we step through the adoption of the EMR and patience is sometimes wearing thin, it’s easier to get through to the other side by going together with an attitude of cooperation and willingness to help.

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