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Mar 27, 2017 12:25:00 PM · by David Kushan

How to Successfully Select Consultants for a Cerner Implementation

Cerner’s platform is powerful and contains a wide range of features and functionality, but for healthcare organizations to realize the full potential of the system, it must be implemented successfully with minimal issues. While Cerner itself typically includes implementation support in its contracts, those services tend to best address the 80% of issues that are most common across all organizations.

The other 20%, which are comprised primarily of edge cases that are unique to each individual organization, necessitate additional help from consultants to ensure they are handled appropriately. The right consultant can tailor a Cerner implementation to your health system's specific situation in a financially viable manner.

Determine What Type of Consultants You Need

Before beginning an implementation, organizations should fully understand the specific level of Cerner-provided support services that are outlined in their contract. All Cerner implementations have several basic similarities, but organizations still must determine their unique requirements. Organizations should identify these and examine where they are most likely to need customized solutions. Doing this protects against delays and costs overruns. It also helps to determine where gaps lie and how to fill them through a combination of internal and external staffing.

One standard implementation model that several organizations have successfully used and merits serious consideration involves combining internal employees whom are shifted and committed to the project with a group of external resources that help guide the overall process.

In most cases, internal staff has less experience with the complexities of a Cerner implementation, yet will know the hospital itself more than external staff. That’s why it’s so important to strike the right balance. Organizations should accordingly identify some individuals who possess the greatest institutional knowledge of processes and systems to be on the implementation team. Since these individuals will be shifted away from their current responsibilities, their positions must be backfilled.

Thoroughly assessing internal staff resources for the implementation makes it easier to determine what project consultants need to be added to the team. Any informatics employees who communicate frequently with clinicians about software, such as those on the support team, are strong candidates for inclusion. If there is no one internally that fits the bill, hospitals should look to outside resources that possess this type of experience. An accurate self-assessment is key to determining effective staff resources for the implementation. Organizations should be forthright about weak points and account for them by adding resources that help bring needed skills and experience.

Health systems should calibrate the number and types of consultants to the project timeline and unique challenges. If meeting deadlines is essential, an organization should seek out a project management consultant with experience on several implementations and a track record of delivering them on time. If the implementation involves a phased roll out that is atypical, complex migration from legacy systems, or multiple sites, then consultants should be chosen who are experienced with these challenges.

Select Consultants Who Meet Your Specific Requirements

Since a Cerner implementation is a substantial process and incorporates a wide range of stakeholders and contributors, hospitals need to hire an experienced project manager. Healthcare systems having difficulty finding a consultant that meets their particular requirements can rely on Healthcare IS. We’re an industry leader in providing versatile experts that will fit well with your specific implementation objectives and requirements.

An effective project manager must be able to engage with the project team and key stakeholders to determine the best approaches to the organization’s concerns. Some hospitals are primarily focused on the bottom line and worried that even a well-executed implementation will result in revenue loss. Such organizations should look at their past history with large-scale changeovers and identify key weaknesses in those efforts.  

The best consultants:

  • Learn about your organization
  • Understand the concerns of key stakeholders throughout your organization
  • Turn this knowledge into actionable project steps
  • Develop a level of trust with the stakeholder and end-users
  • Anticipate potential problems and prevent them
  • Develop system modules and training customized to your staff’s needs

These are key skills that lead to a successful implementation; consultants that don’t bring them to the table are likely to bring less value to the project.

Select Consultants Who Foster Effective Clinician Use

A major challenge of any implementation project is getting hospital staff (the end users) to effectively use new systems. Working with clinicians brings many additional challenges, including:

  • Resistance to technology in general among older staff
  • Frustration over slowed workflows
  • Insufficient time for training
  • Concern about a decrease in autonomy
  • Concern about less patient interaction

Knowing your organization’s end users and how they will react to changes helps determine the outside resources you'll need. Hospitals must gauge potential staff resistance to software or workflow changes and ensure that the implementation team is equipped to meet these challenges.  If clinicians at your organization are particularly skeptical of the benefits of the project, then it may be essential to bring in resources who either have a clinician background or a deep familiarity with their concerns. For example, it may be valuable to emphasize how the Cerner platform will help improve patient care. Consultants who can share specific success stories with clinicians can prevent widescale frustration with the system.

Consultants should always incorporate the perspective of physicians, nurses, and pharmacy staff. A consultant with clinical experience in these areas can better understand their concerns and work with them to make the Cerner solution more intuitive as well as provide extensive training before the system goes live. Both of those elements are imperative in order to avoid clinician backlash that can serve to undermine an otherwise smooth implementation.

Select Consultants Who Fit Your Culture

Cultural fit is an underestimated factor when selecting a consultant. The consultant you choose to help in the implementation will often be of assistance not only on the tech side of things, but also with the communication of concepts and project details. This communication is critical, because without it, the staff’s potential resistance change may take hold and create an environment of skepticism and negativity that can undermine the project. While a particular consultant may have the right qualifications for a job, their ability to fit in well and get along with the rest of the project team, the key stakeholders, and influential end users, is an important factor in the success of the project.

If they fail to integrate with the rest of the organization during the course of the project or struggle to communicate, it can lead to excessive time spent resolving conflicts and produce significant inefficiencies that slow the project.  This is why it’s so important to define and identify exactly what type of person will be necessary to fit into your organization’s particular work environment. Even an extremely skilled consultant could wind up being a poor fit if his or her communication style and personality don’t align with the hospital’s culture.

The Best Consultants For Your Implementation

Ultimately, selecting Cerner implementation consultants is about finding someone who is a good fit with your hospital’s culture, who has experience with some of your unique challenges, and who can integrate seamlessly with your team and be productive from Day 1. Healthcare IS can provide you with these consultants.

Need help finding a highly-skilled IT consultant with experience in healthcare? Download our free eBook "RightFit: 6-Step Process for Successful IT Consultant Selection in the Healthcare Industry" to help find an IT specialist that's right for you.

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