IT onboarding in healthcare facilities – how to do it right

December 4, 2023

Different software, procedures, and workflows

Things are much simpler if the new employee has already worked with the healthcare facility's IT system. But it doesn’t happen in the ecosystem with numerous IT providers. Thus, it is better to have a plan for IT onboarding in place to ensure data quality, smooth workflows, and high-quality patient care.

IT onboarding is essential not only for the new employee but also for their co-workers: no one likes – and has time for – correcting wrongly entered data or answering the same questions repeatedly. Moreover, incorrectly entered data can have serious consequences, even leading to medical errors.

The right strategy should cover the healthcare information system (EHR) usage, data security guidelines, and overall data strategy. Even employees familiar with a particular software brand need to understand the data collection approach: who enters what data, what granularity of data is required, whether customized medical interview templates or local databases are used, and what the patient journey looks like for different patient groups.

A know-how package to get started

Every healthcare facility needs two documents: an IT guide for new employees and an internal IT onboarding procedure. Here is what both papers should include:

  • IT guide for the employee: This should cover information on the type of system, the training cycle, the direct phone number to the IT department, a list of IT leaders in the clinical team ready to help, instructions on how to use the system, patient care procedures (required and optional data), videos and webinars offered by the IT provider, etc. An appendix with training schedule information supplements the document;
  • The IT onboarding strategy: This includes an overall IT policy, a plan for training and one-to-one support (IT coaching), a plan for auditing the correctness of data entry, a program for informing about new IT functionalities and system updates (applicable to all employees), and a schedule of webinars organized by the IT provider.

Primary training must be divided into stages, focusing initially on the standard data entry path. No employee – whether a doctor, nurse, or administrative staff – must know the system's thousands of functions from the start. To begin with, a classic data entry procedure will be enough to master. Prepare them in a graphical form so everybody can get help when there is no time to ask for support.

Elements of good onboarding

The scope of the document depends on whether it's a smaller clinic or a large hospital, but it should always include such critical elements as:

A plan for multi-level training includes the basic instructions on how to use the software (webinars, manuals), essential functions (e.g., scheduling a new appointment in the calendar), and system usage by people in similar workplaces (user-focused courses). It is recommended to create three training scenarios: basic (for those who have difficulties with IT and computers), intermediate (for those who are proficient with computers but unfamiliar with the IT system), and advanced (for those already familiar with the IT system, who need to be onboarded in terms of facility-specific procedures for data registration and patient care guidelines).

To begin, employees must undergo so-called orientation sessions that allow them to settle into the IT environment. These include knowledge of the IT infrastructure, the digitalization strategy and maturity, and data protection and security rules.

The 7-30-90 approach provides a clear roadmap for learning an IT system.

Desk support plan. Micro-training embedded in everyday work is also essential – and often overlooked. The idea is to designate coaches in the team selected among employees who know the software well and will be ready to help when the workers have questions or doubts. In addition, there should be a so-called help desk – dedicated IT support available seven days a week so that an employee can get help in critical situations or report a problem.

E-learning. Everyone learns at their own pace. Offer online resources that an employee can access either while working or at home – we often underestimate employees' readiness and willingness to improve digital skills.

Workflows-oriented training. In any medical facility, it is possible to identify a few of the most common patient journeys and workflows and prepare a training plan based on them—for example, a patient with chronic disease, annual health check-ups, seasonal infections, etc.

Personalization of the workspace. The convenience of working with IT infrastructure can be determined by trivial details: a similar computer mouse to the one used privately, personalization of the IT system (pre-configuration), etc. A questionnaire on IT individual needs should be a part of the IT onboarding procedure.

Evaluation and certification. No one likes to be rated, but assessments are necessary to monitor the ability to use the system and training progress. This can be done through observations, surveys, and tests. Knowledge check-ups can be organized to motivate rather than frighten employees, replacing school-like tests with IT proficiency levels, rewarding commitment to learning how to use the software, and even preparing certificates to mark out the employee's engagement.

Well-prepared onboarding has another advantage: employees will quickly get used to and understand new responsibilities. Hiring a new person in healthcare facilities aims to improve patient care, not to operate the IT systems. From the first day, the employee should know who to ask for help, where to find answers when they don't know, and where to click or enter data.

A common mistake is information overload and intensive training from day one. Present the new person with a plan in a clear structure. The 7-30-90 approach is one of the best ways – it describes what the person will learn during the first 7, 30, and 90 days of work. Such an orderly structure has a calming effect on people who are not tech-savvy. Ensure an atmosphere of honesty – if an employee needs more time to learn the software, create such opportunities.

The IT department must also do its homework, such as configuring the system and preparing templates to make working with the software as easy as possible.