Addressing Epic EHR Support Gaps When Resources are Scarce

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By Kerry Barker, RN BSN | Mar 22, 2024

5 minute read EHR/EMR| Epic| Blog

Recent years have seen concerning labor shortages, and for healthcare, those challenges continue to this day. 2022 was when more than 50 million workers quit their jobs, breaking the record from the previous year when more than 47.8 million also quit prompting market analysts to call it the year of ‘the Great Resignation’. Furthermore, of those who left the workplace during 2022, many did not return to the workforce. Many baby boomers retired and the number of Gen Z workers entering the workforce was smaller than previous generations with many choosing not to return to full-time work. More stats from 2022: 

  • Two thirds (66%) of Americans who lost their full-time job during the pandemic say they are only somewhat active in searching for a new job. 
  • About half (49%) are not willing to take jobs that don’t offer the opportunity for remote work. 
  • More than a quarter (26%) say it will never again be necessary for them to return to work. 
  • Nearly one in five have altered their livelihood: 
    • 17% have retired
    • 19% have transitioned to stay at home
    • 14% are now working part time
    • Younger workers (aged 25-34) are prioritizing personal growth over searching for a job right now; 36% say they’re more focused on acquiring new skills, education or training before re-entering the job market.  

Given all these figures, some were forced to wonder if we were experiencing a labor shortage that would last forever. In surveys of CHIME members, CIOs have named insufficient employee bandwidth/capacity to manage/execute on IT initiatives as a top concern for the last three years. 

What we are witnessing is how the standards that once attracted and retained employees will not work in a market like that of today. Focus on appealing to younger applicants while keeping more mature workers engaged and satisfied is a priority for all employers. Pay and benefits must be competitive. As importantly, companies need to identify and provide both junior and experienced workers with a career track they can follow, or they could leave for better understood opportunities. Businesses could need to flex their approach to staffing and managing their teams to meet these modern expectations – and healthcare is no exception. 

Contingent staffing: consider the possibilities 

Contingent staffing presents an opportunity for filling multiple gaps at organizations. In healthcare, that means supplementing your team with experts who know the industry, the EHR, and hospital operations. Working with a firm to help find healthcare IT talent, you can provide multiple opportunities and gains for your organization. Contingent workers are usually hired for projects rather than continuous work, but organizations looking for a more permanent full-time employee (FTE) can also start working with candidates on a contingent basis to see if they are a fit for the organization. Oftentimes, current contingent workers are seeking the right organization that is a fit for them where they could become an FTE. Benefits of contingent workers include: 

  • Reduced costs -- Consider the costs of onboarding a new employee. Once your organization has completed background checks, drug screening, vaccinations, etc. and the labor to follow up on all details, the costs are expensive. Then consider providing benefits such as healthcare, dental, insurance and other employee benefits. What about training and certifications costs? These all add up. With contingent workers, these costs are avoided as your professional staffing organization should provide individuals trained and ready to work. They don’t require benefits. You pay for what you get with a dollar amount based on the work to be done over the course of your project. 
    • An Epic analytics example: At Epic facilities, data analytics, data exchange and reporting are needed from implementation through optimization, and there are increasing requests for the ability to provide more and more out of the available data in the EHR. Finding someone with the skills to deliver on these requests is not easy given the language of the Epic system which is familiar only to those who know the system best and the finite number of people who hold the proper certifications. It’s difficult, but not impossible to find the rare skills and expertise, and CereCore has those specialized resources. Two of our example experts in this space are an Epic Cogito Project Manager and an experienced Epic Technical Advisor (who is also a nurse). They bring valuable skills to the forefront, offering:
      • More than 7 years of analytics project and operations management
      • Experience with Cogito build including Slicer Dicer, Extracts, Executive Dashboards, Predictive Analyst, and Cogito Refuel Assessment
      • Overall governance advisory services
      • Over 25 years as a Registered Nurse, offering that direct clinical perspective 
      • Focus on Data flow to downstream integrations/systems/reports
      • Hyperdrive rollout coordination
      • Patient workflow expertise 

For more on Epic reporting see Elevate Efficiency: Epic Reporting Processes Optimization. 

  • Expertise – You can hit the ground running by hiring contingent workers with a depth of experience.  They can bring in new ideas, perspectives, and best practices learned from working with other organizations solving the same challenges your organization experiences. Contingent workers come trained and ready to bridge the gap between what your team knows and has time to do and what they don’t – saving you time and money and interjecting knowhow that may not be resident on your team.  
    • An EHR transition example: An organization was moving from Cerner to Epic for their EHR. This meant building new interfaces and called for skills and capacity not available on their current team. Specifically, they needed help with Epic Bridges and with upgrading their interface engine for the transition. For a project of this size and complexity, CereCore found four Epic Bridges analyst/interface engineers each with over 10 years of build experience. These experts took this team far beyond their core competencies by adding this experience to their effort: 
      • Certified in Epic Bridges 
      • Each had completed multiple implementations 
      • Experienced with Rhapsody, Cloverleaf and other Interface engines 
      • All had experiences in the various range of interface build needed from Lab, Cardiac, Device Integration, Pharmacy, Document storage, etc. 

For more information on transitioning to Epic, see Epic Transition and Go-Live Planning: Cutover Essentials. 

  • Flexibility – Regulatory changes are just one kind of change we can anticipate in healthcare, and it is beneficial for organizations to be able to respond to changing circumstances. The pace and scope of regulatory changes or other major projects/integrations make it difficult to develop the necessary competency on your team while also maintaining the current system. Supplementing your staff with contingent assistance can work in two ways: 1) you can find the specialized talent that you need to deal with the new needs, or 2) resources to keep things running optimally enabling your current staff to focus on the new initiatives. Contingent workers can also jump in and help pick up the slack while you manage experiences (and retention) through other staff outages such as parental and medical leave. Flexibility options to consider with contingent staffing include short term contracts that can end or be extended, a pool of talent that expands beyond your geography to reach more expertise, and support for schedules that need to be filled but are less attractive to typical candidates.  
    • A healthcare acquisition example: An organization was being acquired and needed guidance on how to transition to Epic. This created an ideal scenario for involving CereCore’s Epic Advisory services as the organizations determined the skills and gaps of the merged teams, the services to be offered by the new organization, and other details of a complicated acquisition scenario. The advisors CereCore staffed were as follows: 
      • An overall advisor for the customer’s initiative and for their leadership team; CereCore provided the customer with an advisor who had: 
        • Over 17 years of experience with Epic and Project Management 
        • Project manager/advisor experience with many different clients, including experience with multiple installs 
        • PMP Certification 
        • Previous experience as an Implementation Coordinator for Epic Systems  
        • An advisor for some of their key processes such as Provider Engagement and Operational Readiness; CereCore provided the customer with an advisor who was a(n): 
        • Registered Nurse for over 30 years 
        • IT analyst experienced with both Meditech and Epic 
        • Experienced Epic analyst with 12 years of Epic build experience 
        • Expert contributor to multiple Epic Implementations 

For more on Epic project management, see For Epic Implementations the Right Project Manager is Crucial.  

Technology makes it possible to connect business, modern work arrangements (i.e. remote work), and specialty services in an era of labor challenges like we have seen, continue to manage, and expect to experience for some time to come. The need for flexibility in the workplace has been answered with the combination of remote expertise and technology despite the surrounding challenges. Consider contingent staffing with the expertise you need to help your organization address the labor gaps healthcare is facing. And if it’s Epic expertise you need, CereCore is well-qualified to meet your needs and would love to partner with you on a solution.  

About the Author:
Kerry Barker, RN BSN

Manager, Epic Services, CereCore

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