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EHR support can be “fun”

Longview | May 10, 2017
Doctor helps ease pain of change

He wasn’t going to be seeing patients that weekend so Dr. Jason Suh, the lead hospitalist for PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview, Washington, headed to Florence, Oregon to help fellow PeaceHealth clinicians with their new electronic health record (EHR) system.

EHRs are essential these days for keeping a record of the care patients receive in clinics and hospitals. Gone are the days of paper charts, mislaid files, loss to fire or deciphering unintelligible handwriting.

But computers being what they are, using a new EHR is far from easy. It can be frustrating, especially when you’re just trying to do what you can for the patient at your side. Pecking at keys or searching screens can get old…fast.

Dr. Suh and his colleagues in Longview had gone “live” on the EHR a few months prior so they knew the pain their counterparts would be feeling. (Go-lives are when caregivers make the switch to using the new system for real-time work—it’s not practice anymore.) At his urging, several providers from Longview joined him at other go-lives. “Remember when we went live?” he’d said. “Well, they could sure use your help.”

With three EHR “go-lives” at PeaceHealth under his belt, providing moral and technical support suited him fine. “It’ll be fun,” Dr. Suh said about helping his PeaceHealth colleagues on the Oregon coast a few weeks after their switch. They were having some lingering issues. “I said, let’s see if we can make the system work better.”

In Dr. Suh’s experience, doctor-to-doctor support is key. It’s easier for doctors to learn from other doctors. “It makes the learning much better. We need to help physicians help physicians,” he said.

As something of a whiz on the computer, he’s quite comfortable with tech, but he knows that feeling is far from universal. “It’s stressful. I felt for the people going through the frustration of using a new system.”

According to Dr. Jay Eisenberg, who oversees all informatics at PeaceHealth, Dr. Suh’s passion hasn’t stopped at go-lives. In fact, it’s probably even more intense.

EHRs are never a “one-and-done” proposition; they’re in a constant state of evolution. Dr. Suh has jumped with both feet into improving the system to do the right things for patients while making it more efficient for providers. Making the most use of an EHR is ongoing. “We’re always trying to make it better. We have to make sure the system serves all of us,” said Dr. Suh.

“Every time there’s a big item to address, he’s there,” said Dr. Eisenberg. “He’s one of the first to raise his hand.”

Without ado, Dr. Suh will frequently arrange and manage discussions that may involve several facilities and specialties. His skill in helping to find the common ground and propose solutions that work equally well for all parties is an especially fine art.

“I might hear about the work only after the fact,” said Dr. Eisenberg. “He sees a need and just takes care of it.”

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