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Making the EHR Switch: Convert with Confidence [WEBINAR]

by Michelle Mangino, Social Media Manager

On September 10, athenahealth conducted a live webinar to share best practices for assessing the value of your electronic health record (EHR) system and that of potential replacements. Following the webinar, I sat down with the presenter, Matt Hoenigsberg, from our product marketing team, to answer a few questions we received, but were unable to get to during the recording.

  1. "Can we choose not to do a clinical data conversion if we’re still able to access our data from our old EHR?"
  2. A: We don’t force our clients to do a clinical data conversion or take one specific approach — they need to take the approach that makes the most sense for them.

    We’ve certainly seen practices that wanted to keep their old EHR running as a historical data viewer because they wanted to get their money’s worth from purchasing the previous EHR’s software license. That’s totally fine. My only suggestion is to think about the patient experience. Will your patients be impacted by providers having to toggle between two different systems? Will your providers be slowed down?

    The benefit of doing a clinical data conversion as a new athenahealth client is that the critical data points you need are easily accessible from athenaClinicals, our EHR. This makes for an easier workflow and a better patient experience. Additionally, having your historical data hosted in the cloud means you don’t need to maintain additional servers at your practice.

    If you decide not to do a clinical data conversion, we can still backfill certain data elements (like medications) from the cloud and, as part of our implementation, provide you with best practices and training on chart abstraction (having staff manually enter certain data points into athenaClinicals).

  3. "Since Meaningful Use will eventually make it easier to switch EHRs, should we just wait?"
  4. A: Definitely not. It will take years before standards driven by Meaningful Use will bear fruit in terms of clinical interoperability and EHR switching. Also, if you’re already considering switching right now, then you more than likely have a good reason. Delaying could mean sacrificing quality of care and not being able to keep pace with all the changes coming in health care.

    If you’d like more information on how Meaningful Use standards will help drive interoperability, I recommend reading Stage 2 Meaningful Use: Surfing the Waves of Interoperability, Part 1” from my colleague, Jitin Asnaani.

  5. "Why is it easier to switch the data in my practice management system than in my EHR?"
  6. A: Think about your practice management system. It primarily contains financial and scheduling data. How many different ways can a calendar date be stored in your practice management system? Now think about clinical data. How many different ways could a provider document something like lactose intolerance? Are they documenting it as free text or in a structured field? What words did they use to record lactose intolerance: “milk,” “lactose,” “lactose intolerance,” “dairy?”

    There are countless factors that affect the quality of clinical data in the source system including which vendor the practice is using, which EHR from that vendor, which version of that EHR… How does the provider like to document care? How is the clinical data stored, on a local server or hosted remotely? Is any of the patient data encrypted? The list can go on and on.

  7. "You mentioned that if I leave my vendor, they may charge me for a copy of my data. How much do vendors typically charge? Does athenahealth do this?"
  8. A: The amount of money your vendor may charge you will most likely depend on the amount of data in your old EHR. We’ve seen some pretty scary numbers. Our point of view is that if you leave your vendor, and you have to pay even one penny for your data, you are paying too much.

    We believe your data is your data. If a client ever chooses to switch away from athenahealth to another vendor — which we, of course, hope would never happen— we would give the client a complimentary copy of their data upon termination.

    If you decide to do a clinical data conversion to our EHR, we can cut your original vendor out of the picture, if needed. Our data conversion specialists will work with you to extract the data form your source system and then perform the quality work to ensure it is accurately loaded onto our network.

If you were unable to attend this webinar or would like to catch a replay, watch our on-demand recording.

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