hCare University Provides Boost To Clinical Services EHR Efforts

Sometimes you learn things in a staff meeting that aren’t on the agenda. That was definitely the case at a Clinical Services Group gathering in early 2011.

“We were talking about Meaningful Use, and our Electronic Health Records (EHR) strategy across the company,” said Mary Mirabelli, Vice President and Chief Project Officer of the Clinical Services Group (CSG). “We had a lot of work to do to ensure that we could convert the last vestiges of our patient records that needed to be electronic. We had been about 65 percent electronic for quite some time, but we knew we needed a lot of people to help us execute this huge, crucially important agenda for us as a company.”

That’s when the light bulb went off.

“We were in a meeting, about 80 people, and I asked how many people were under 30,” Mirabelli recalled. “Two hands went up, and I knew we were in trouble. We needed hundreds of people, and we knew that getting more experienced people was difficult because these jobs were going to involve a lot of fieldwork. So we began looking at how we could go about ‘growing our own’ from within.”

That led to the formation of hCare University, which graduated its inaugural class of 25 employees last summer, had its second session in July and plans a third in September. Recruitment was done at four universities in Tennessee, with students from a variety of backgrounds sought for the newly created EHR Implementation Specialist position within the EHR Program Office. Each of the new hires spent six weeks in hCare University, learning not only the ins and outs of EHR implementation, but also the history of HCA as a company, how to work with diverse groups of people, how to lead meetings and more.

Program Preps Specialists

“It was so difficult to find the right fit for these jobs,” said Mary Speciale, AVP of Electronic Health Record Implementation, who was tasked with setting up hCare University. “We needed people who could implement these clinical systems and handle some project management, but who also were very technologically savvy. There weren’t many in the marketplace, so we developed our own. We designed a curriculum and are teaching these new hires skills enabling them to become IT specialists with a strong affinity toward EHR implementation. We’re pleased, because this is helping us build careers, not just fill jobs.”

The newly minted EHR Implementation Specialists fanned out across the HCA enterprise, and quickly got to work putting EHR systems into place. They say the training was invaluable, and let them literally hit the ground running.

“I wanted to get into healthcare upon graduating college, and this was a wonderful opportunity to begin my career,” said Erica Zanghellini, Implementation Specialist. “My degree is in Human and Organizational Development, with a concentration in Health Services and Organizational Effectiveness. This major aligned perfectly with the Implementation Specialist Program, and provided me with a transferable skill set that could be utilized in a hospital setting.”

Grads are biggest boosters

Zanghellini has been a Team Lead for the West Florida Division Vitals Now Project, which implements bedside devices to record vitals that are then instantly transferred to the existing EHR system. She now works at Centennial Medical Center in Nashville on the Advanced Clinicals with CPOE initiative.

“It was great to train with other young individuals new to HCA,” she said. “One of the best things about the orientation program is that it is so broad in scope. It encompasses everything from learning about HCA and its culture to hands on clinical application of learning. It went beyond just the IT work itself.” That’s the kind of feedback Mirabelli said she was hoping for when hCare University was just a working concept.

“We knew we needed people, and when we received 400 applicants for 25 spots we knew we were onto something,” she said. “Now we have, and are adding to, a workforce that looks forward to being on the road and can learn very quickly. They have been a delight, and have raised the bar for all of us in terms of their energy and enthusiasm, and the quickness with which they adapt to new technology. Retention has been fabulous, the feedback from the field has been outstanding … I think they are going to be invaluable to us.”