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4 Things to Know When Switching Your EHR

by Matthew Hoenigsberg, Manager, Product Marketing

Last July, KLAS announced that half of all ambulatory electronic health record (EHR) buyers plan to replace their system, up from 30 percent the year before. And we are seeing that upward trend continue in 2013. Why? Lots of reasons. Chief among them may be that practices now have a better understanding of what they need from an EHR and will no longer settle for the traditional legacy offerings many are using today. My colleague Todd Rothenhaus, MD, athenahealth's CMO, spoke on this topic in a recent EHR Intelligence interview, mentioning a potential hiccup in this transition:

“… providers are experiencing a natural evolution in their use of technology, moving from client-sided servers to application service providers (ASPs) to software as a service (SaaS) in the cloud. The problem with this progression is what it means for the data migrating from one system to the next.”

With the consideration of a new EHR, it’s essential that you know how each potential vendor plans to migrate your data—and how much say you have in the process.

If your practice or health system is currently in the market for a new EHR, here are four things to keep in mind during the process:

1. The sizable risks—clinically and financially—of staying with traditional software systems

Your EHR probably wasn’t cheap. While it may be tough to justify switching to another EHR and writing off the money you’ve already spent, how much more will it cost you to stick it out? If you’re not confident your EHR can keep the pace with the rapid changes in health care, or if it slows you down, then you may be at risk for missing out on incentive dollars, incurring payment reform penalties, or—worst of all—negatively impacting your patients’ care.

2. Why a “one size fits all” approach to data conversion cannot work

Not all clinical data is created equally. There are hundreds of health IT vendors and even more EHRs in the market, each with their own methods for entering, storing, and accessing clinical data—so data in one EHR will be in an entirely different format than another. The limitations of traditional software compound the issue with different versions of the same EHR storing data uniquely (e.g., data in version 8.0 may be stored slightly differently than data in version 9.0). To complicate things even further, how practices document care can cause data discrepancies even in the same health system (e.g., practice A using free text fields to document smoking history while practice B enters the data discretely). A standard, “one size fits all” approach to data conversions can actually increase the risk of bringing corrupt data into your new EHR.

3. How the right data conversion methodology makes for a smooth EHR transition

A successful clinical data conversion strategy needs to take the unique considerations and needs of a practice into account. You should have options for what to do with your clinical data so you can not only make the data you need accessible in your new EHR, but produce a historical record for data retention purposes. And this needs to be done in a way that won’t slow you down. A partnered approach to data conversions can simplify the process, reduce time and cost, maintain provider productivity, and preserve continuity of care for your patients.

4. Why cloud-based services are the ideal selection for the future of health care

Like Todd said, health IT is following an evolutionary path to the cloud. It’s becoming obvious that keeping up with the changes in health care is a massive task—with plenty of more challenges to come in the form of ICD-10 and Stage 2 Meaningful Use. Traditional software is simply not designed to respond to change as fast as, and with the flexibility of, cloud-based services.

Register here for our webinar, “How to Switch Your EHR with Confidence: Taking Control of Patient Data Conversion”, to learn how we can help move you, and your patient data, to the cloud.

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