Submitted by Carolyn A. Silzle, RD, LD. Have you recently worked with your Information Technology (IT) Department to implement a new electronic health record system? Or, are you contemplating a new food service management system, or have you just installed one? Chances are that the person working with you knows nothing about nutrition, food service, or dietitians in general. Rather than complain, turn it around to promote what you want.
Individuals who work in IT are smart people, but you are perhaps the first dietitian that they have met. While in the past their job was giving users what they thought they needed, they are now told to ask users about how they use the current system and what they want. This is a completely new concept for them. Rather than confuse them immediately with dietitian speak, my suggestion is to guide the interview, much like how you guide students through their first couple of interviews with patients.
Dietitians are experts at interviewing. Prior to joining my own hospital’s IT department, I kept thinking that I could interview much better than the analysts assigned to interview me about workflow. Interviewing 101 teaches us to not ask yes/no questions and to follow up answers with additional questions to draw the information out. So, turn the table around. Find out what they really are asking.
Basics might include whether you see inpatients or outpatients (or both). Make sure to find out how they define outpatients. If you see patients in a clinic, you are probably seeing outpatients. Documentation is another question that could confuse them. Do you use a program within your department to write your notes and then print them to put them in the patient’s chart? Then the follow-up should ask if there is a way to place this in the chart electronically. Rather than discussing the need for International Dietetics and Nutrition Terminology (IDNT), ask about using structured documentation. Discourage the suggestion to cut and paste.
If your discussion is diet orders, find out what they really want to know:
- How the diet order gets to the kitchen?
- How the cooks know what to prepare?
- How the right tray gets to the right patient at the right time?
- Is there printing involved? Labels? Menus? Tray tickets?
If at all possible, give them a tour during off hours, so that they can see the equipment that is used. Do not feel that you need to tell them everything in one session. Offer to meet with them again to review what they have learned and to answer any questions. In addition, make sure to offer to help with testing when the time comes. That way, you can see the product before it goes “live” and still make changes.