EHR implementation tips
Despite the many advantages of EHR implementation illustrated in "Why EHRs Are So Important," some medical practices have concerns about choosing the right EHR, the security of patient records, and the level of disruption an EHR implementation might bring.
Cloud-based services actually offer distinct security advantages over more conventional technology platforms:
- Data backup at a secure location that's geographically separate from the primary location
- A uniform, high level of security, privacy controls, and resources, all supported by a level of investment a practice would otherwise be unable to leverage
- A single, integrated database platform, without the risks inherent in cobbling together multiple information platforms
- A level of constant monitoring that's impossible with paper-based and client-server software
A slow, inefficient or poorly planned EHR implementation can be disruptive to a practice, so the right preparation and methodology is essential. Implementation must include thorough preparation of the practice, excellent technical support, and education and training for providers and staff.
So how does a practice choose the right EHR vendor, one that will provide the right technology, services, security, implementation and more? Here are eight tips to consider when choosing a vendor:
1. Assess practice readiness
Which software and equipment do you currently use to run your office, and what kind of investment in new technology would you need to bring a new EHR system live? Does your practice have the right leadership and support to undertake a project of this scope? What about your practice's culture? Is there sufficient flexibility and willingness to adapt to change?
2. Establish budget and project teams
Consider all potential budget and operational needs by developing a budget that includes the hardware, software, interfaces, support services, space renovations, training, and extra staff time needed during planning. Also, estimate any costs related to potential lost productivity in the first few weeks after the EHR goes live.
3. Manage change
If users feel excluded from the selection and implementation of an EHR, the effort could fail, even if the EHR is a perfect fit for your practice. Keep everyone informed about the change by communicating your EHR implementation plan clearly, and identifying goals and next steps.
4. Redesign workflow
Start by documenting and evaluating your current workflows, with the goal of improving efficiency (e.g., removing steps or people from the process). If you currently use a paper process, decide how you will replace "paper triggers"— such as a paper chart posted outside an exam room door signaling that a patient is ready to be seen — with "electronic triggers," where a patient's check-in and exam room location are automatically indicated in the EHR schedule.
5. Choose a partner, not a product
In most instances, you are about to enter a long-term partnership with a vendor. You want a hard-working partner with a culture and long-term vision that are aligned with yours.
6. Consider a service-based system versus a software-centric EHR
A network-based or cloud-based EHR service is accessed through the Internet and offers remarkable benefits to the physician practice, including lower up-front costs and greater efficiency. Also, cloud-based systems are well-positioned to integrate changes initiated by government mandates (such as the Meaningful Use program) or payer requirements.
7. Ensure long-term readiness to adapt to changing reimbursement environment
With a network-based or cloud-based EHR model, your practice can be ready for change that directly affects profitability. Collective clinical rules can be constantly updated, and proactive clinical intelligence that supports increased revenue opportunities can be embedded into a practice's workflow. When a network's collective financial and clinical intelligence is kept up-to-date, providers can spend more time on patient care.
8. Choose an EHR vendor that offers a well-established practice management solution
When an EHR and a practice management system are smoothly integrated, it provides practices with benefits beyond just an EHR implementation. When the two interface easily, practices are enabled to increase exam room utilization and flow, bill appropriately for care provided, increase the timeliness of documentation, eliminate lost or missed charges, and even improve the patient experience via greater efficiencies.