Is Your Practice Ready For A New EHR?
Whether you are starting out with Electronic Health Records (EHR) to replace paper records or you are replacing an existing EHR system, the process of transitioning requires significant preparation.
Finding the right solution can seem overwhelming. Planning your specific needs, goals and understanding the overall impact of a new EHR system on your practice will ease the transition process and increase your chance of success.
Here are four questions to keep in mind as you prepare your practice for an EHR implementation.
Is the practice ready for a transition?
Here are a few up-front questions to consider: Are your administrative processes fully documented? You cannot get to where you want to be without knowing how you are doing things presently.
Are there technological literacy gaps that might prevent your staff from using new software? If so, consider additional computer training.
Can the practice able handle additional financial costs? Are there staffing changes that may add expenses? Hardware may need to be updated. There may be a loss in productivity during the implementation process. Even after the new system goes live, it may take time to fully experience workflow benefits.
Who will be part of the core implementation team?
A designated leadership team can make or break an EHR implementation process. Their task is to gather information for the project and to assist in the workflow development.
The team can be comprised of clinical and practice management staff within your various departments. For small practices, the leadership team may include the entire staff. Regardless of who is part of the EHR implementation team, the members must have the authority to make decisions on how the transition will take place.
A physician champion should help lead or support the cause for implementing the EHR. Designating a specific person (or persons) to answer questions and assist others throughout the transition will make things easier and encourage staff participation. One lead member should have the responsibility to make final decisions in the case of conflicts.
What are your goals?
Electronic health records provide many advantages. Establishing key goals for implementation should be made early and modified as necessary throughout the process. The goals set by the leadership team should be measurable and realistic.
A common goal is to convert patient information from paper records for easier access to clinical data. There is also the opportunity to improve workflow and to improve communication with affiliated hospitals, other clinics, labs and pharmacies. Another goal is to participate in Meaningful Use, Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) and other quality programs, where data must be recorded to qualify for government incentive payments. Of course, improved quality of health care and patient satisfaction is the overarching goal.
Who will be your vendor?
With the initial goals set, it comes time to vet prospective EHR providers. There are many vendors to choose from, including those that specialize. A specialty-specific EHR is designed to meet the needs and workflows of a specific practice type. They include forms and templates tailored to the specialty that provide workflow optimization.
You will need to determine what type of EHR you want to use. Client-server systems store data in-house and requires computer hardware and software be installed on-site. In a cloud-based system, the data is stored externally and can be accessed from anywhere, only requiring a computer with an internet connection. Practices are increasingly turning to cloud-based EHRs for IT resource savings, improved accessibility and security reasons.
A certified vendor has the functionality and security necessary for practices to achieve Meaningful Use (MU) and qualify for government incentive payments. After narrowing down your options of certified EHRs, discuss your goals and expectation with the vendor to ensure that the service will accomplish your practice’s goals.
An EHR implementation can only go as well as its initial preparation. Evaluating workflow needs and practice goals are the most critical steps when starting a transition.
So, how are you preparing for your new EHR?