Bending Health IT's Learning Curve

Can you teach an old doc new tricks? That's what hospitals are trying to figure out as they grapple with how to train physicians and other clinicians on new health IT systems.

The key lies in figuring out how doctors learn best, hospital IT executives tell the Wall Street Journal. That means, for example, training physicians in small groups, maybe just two or four at a time. It's even better if the training sessions are led by another physician and if the training times and locations are flexible enough to accommodate doctors' erratic 24-7 schedules. Training simulations can help doctors retain information, a health IT consultant told the paper.

The time commitment for busy health-care professionals is significant. A survey commissioned by the newspaper found that 36 percent of hospitals were planning 12 or more training hours per clinician. Another 37 percent planned to devote six-to-11 hours per clinician.

In the end, one of the best training tools might be peer pressure, according to Todd F. Richardson, chief information officer at Deaconess Health System in Evansville, Ill. Once doctors learn how to use the electronic health record system, he tells the newspaper, they're not very sympathetic toward colleagues who balk at the training.