Your Beaker go-live checklist: 6 critical steps to take after an Epic Beaker install

So, you just installed Beaker. What’s next?

Take a breath. It’s probably the first time you’ve been able to in months. As a CIO once put it to me, installing Beaker is like changing the tires on a bus while it’s speeding down the highway. It’s no easy feat, so take a moment to celebrate the hard work you’ve put in so far.

Now let’s get you to go-live. This final phase usually requires pausing rollouts, upgrades, and other general system priorities to focus energy and attention on the critical tasks at-hand. Once you reach the end, post-live will be a time to reevaluate, reprioritize, and put other activities back in motion.

MalloryPowers_2019_blogTo make sure you have a strong final sprint to the finish, here are six critical steps to take between your Beaker install and go-live.

1. Align your team with priorities, policies, and procedures

Let’s start at the highest level with a general but important question: Is your team genuinely aligned with system-wide priorities, policies, and procedures?

If the answer is anything but a resounding “yes,” start by making the team aware of where your organization is heading and what it actually means to be “live.” After go-live, your team will almost certainly become part of the ongoing support staff. Again, what does that mean in practical terms? Don’t wait to address these details. As with everything we’re talking about here, sooner is better than later.

Also, in the initial post-live stage, it’s a good idea to establish a roadmap showing what’s coming down the pipeline and what the team needs to do to prepare accordingly.  

Here are a few additional points you should consider:

  • What policies/procedures are new to your team? Review these with everyone to make sure they understand these changes.
  • Too often, the Beaker team gets a pass on stringent change control or documentation requirements. These need to be reviewed and clarified. Get everyone on the same page and aligned with the rest of the IT department.
  • What does the high-level schedule look like for the coming year in terms of rollouts, upgrades, and major lab changes (location moves, new equipment, significant expansions, etc.)?
  • Are there any major system-wide initiatives that your team needs to be looped into or will be a part of?
  • Has your hospital won any grants, or is it aiming for any new certifications that the lab would be a part of (research or innovation, HIMSS Stages, etc.)?
  • Is your hospital moving to a quarterly upgrade schedule? What does that look like for your team and its involvement in the near future?

Knowing what’s slated for the year ahead can help you and your team prioritize a complex list of activities and create a basic structure for the team to use while also helping reveal staffing needs that can be filled before it’s too late.

2. Shorten the learning curve by clearly defining the processes and setting boundaries

Transitioning from a Beaker install to maintenance and optimization can be difficult for both the Beaker team and the labs. Moving over to a centralized ticketing or preferred request system can be a steep learning curve for everyone. There will be some foreign concepts that take time and energy to master.

Get ahead of this transition by clearly defining the process, the escalation path, and turnaround times to help set boundaries for both the Beaker team and the end users. Providing education to end users, including tip sheets with required information and support for ticket requests, will enable them to clearly communicate needs with the Beaker team.

Establishing governance around subject matter expert groups or steering committees is a great first step so that post-live changes are reviewed across the system and approved by the appropriate users. You’ll also want to define required attendees, approval processes, and change control next steps to help ensure the Beaker and lab teams are on the same page.

Finally, for any changes that would be tracked by a regulatory body or accreditation agency, creating a set form for updates, testing, and final sign-off that can be stored in an accessible location will help make sure that documentation is consistent and maintained system wide.

3. Identify any delayed upgrades or pushed special updates (SUs)

Around this time, there’s usually a backlog of SUs to review–items that may not have been installed or optimized during the install, as well as new SUs coming for upgrades that have been delayed.

  • Were any upgrades delayed or SUs pushed?
  • Is anything waiting in Nova for review that was not deemed go-live critical?

It helps to divide these backlog tasks among the team, divvying out responsibilities to each area owner. These owners can make sure that no updates or notes were forgotten or have not been reviewed for possible impact. Any new SUs or Nova notes should be reviewed following your Epic team’s approach – whether that’s as a Beaker team, as a subgroup, or by a specific upgrade owner.

If you’d like additional planning advice for moving to the new Epic quarterly upgrade model, check out our webinar recording on the topic: How to Transition to the Epic Quarterly Upgrade Model.

4. Define the size and scope of your rollout in light of any ongoing expansion 

Is all of this happening while your organization expands? Are you going live big bang-style or is there a rollout schedule?

Remember that while going live with Beaker is a huge step, acquisitions and partnerships don’t stop while it’s happening. Once live, you’ll need to pin down the true size and scope of what’s coming next and prepare as soon as possible.

Information-gathering on the rollout facilities is incredibly important and any standardization that can be done will be beneficial in the long-run. High level areas to keep in mind for defining scope include:

  • Test catalog: Is this standardized or are there significant differences to your current catalog?
  • Instrumentation: Do the facilities have similar instrumentation to the live labs or will these be new instrument interfaces that will need to be set up and validated?
  • Reference lab interfaces: Do the rollout facilities send to the same reference lab, or will a new reference lab interface (and build) be needed?
  • Blood bank: Will you be rolling out the same blood bank software across the system or are there facilities that will be maintaining a separate blood bank?
  • Point-of-care: Do all your facilities use the same point-of-care devices or will you need to set up new point-of-care devices/interfaces for different rollout facilities.

5. Make sure you're adequately staffed for what's happening now and what's coming next

Maintaining the balance between optimization, maintenance, upgrades, and rollouts is critical to the long-term success of the system and the team. But it’s never easy or apparent. Make a plan – and staff that plan – now, not later. It can mean the difference between (relatively) smooth sailing and a panic-induced crisis during your Beaker install.

It’s worth repeating: Adequate and appropriate staffing can make or break a Beaker program. Not only does your team need to be sufficiently staffed to support the requests that will be asked of them, it also must consist of all the skill sets needed to handle those requests efficiently and effectively.

Consultants are a great asset during an install and the initial post-live period, or when called upon as-needed for projects. But your core, full-time team needs to be able to sustain the system and organizational priorities on its own with the support of a management structure that addresses the intricacies of maintaining and rolling out a lab system.

6. Don't get complacent when things go back to normal 

While it might be hard to believe now, eventually, the command center will close, the go-live support will hang up their vests, and things will go back to “business as usual.”

Naturally, end-user momentum will die down. That’s a great place to be, but only when the support continues.

Maintaining open lines of communication, continuing regular check-ins (maybe less frequently) and providing ongoing education to users for anything that was missed pre-live (like reporting) or new developments will go a long way toward keeping up a healthy and positive relationship with the labs.

It can take some time for everyone to get comfortable, but as long as people know they are not alone or forgotten, they usually feel like they will get to a place where their lives are back to normal.

Final thoughts and next steps

Beaker installs can be hectic and fast-paced, which makes it difficult to find your balance during post-live. If you follow the steps outlined above and define your “what’s next” list as genuine action items, you’ll be well on your way to making sure everyone is prepared, comfortable, and ready to go with your installs. And you’ll also set up your labs and IT teams for success in the short and long term.  

If you need help navigating any of the post-install action steps outlined above, or assistance with reviewing your staffing needs, please reach out. In the meantime, if you’re looking for some additional ways to hit the ground running with Beaker, check out my advice on 5 ways to boost lab efficiency and improve patient care through Epic’s Beaker LIS reports.

We look forward to discussing your organization’s specific Beaker needs, and helping you derive actionable information to improve patient care and outcomes for your organization.

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Mallory Powers is a manager of Optimization Solutions at Nordic, leading development and execution of strategic solutions. She works with client partners to make their people, processes, and systems more efficient and supportive of their organizational goals. Mallory brings nine years of healthcare experience, specifically in the laboratory information system field, to her clients, helping to maximize system usability and improve patient care.

Topics: Epic Beaker, Optimization

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