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Six Guiding Principles to Ensure your EHR Implementation Goes Off Without a Hitch

Just over a decade ago, doctors in the U.S. updated patient files by hand and stored them in color-coded files. Thankfully, technology enhancements have made way for more effective and accurate alternatives. EHR adoption grew to nearly 96 percent, mainly due to government EHR incentive programs.

This number may seem high, but it makes sense:  many healthcare organizations struggle with exchanging data or the need to optimize, upgrade, or reimplement their EHR to work more efficiently. A reported 70 percent of hospitals are not using patient information outside their EHR because the external providers' data is not available in their EHR systems' workflow. The industry push toward interoperability calls for an EHR that can keep up with your organization’s needs.

EHR implementations are complex, but they don’t have to be a nightmare. Here are six best practices to follow to ensure your EHR implementation goes off without a hitch:

Get Everyone on the Same Page

Make sure employees at all levels are aware of any and all changes taking place and confirm that they understand why they are important to the success of the project. Clear and concise communication should come early and frequently so team members are prepared for process changes or any impacts to their work routine. Ensuring every member has training before go-live increases comfort, positivity, and the overall success of every change that’s made.

Set Goals

Work with your EHR partner to draft specific, measurable, and attainable goals for your organization. Use their expertise and experience to your advantage to assess current practices and make sure the EHR system will fill all the identified gaps in processes. Make sure all team leaders are aware of the goals and that they communicate expectations to their teams.

Create Cheerleaders

Establish executive leadership to hold team members accountable for goals, attitudes, and behaviors. As the project champion, this person should seek out early-adopters across the organization to help spread positivity about the project, share knowledge, and educate the pessimists. Not only will boosting morale make the implementation processes smoother and more efficient, but it will also contribute to successful go-live and optimal utilization.  Ultimately, the faster staff embrace using the new system the sooner it can deliver value.

Ask Questions

Education is key in any EHR implementation. In addition to talking to your EHR partner directly, be sure to ask them for references as well. Visit local hospitals and provider practices that have gone through an EHR implementation, and ask them about their experience: what went well and what didn’t; any steps they would have done differently and strategies that they’d recommend repeating. Health IT conferences and online webinars are also a good source of information for industry trends and user tips.

Redesign the Workflow

An EHR system is designed to help improve processes and create a seamless patient experience. Be sure to use this improvement time to make sure your team’s workflow processes are efficient and effective for your needs, and are well positioned to take advantage of all the optimizations the EHR will offer. Use technology to eliminate redundant, time-consuming interactions and consider re-engineering staff roles and responsibilities that will be replaced by digitized workflows. Be sure that in deciding on new workflows that you have clinical, financial, and operational leaders involved in the decisions together. Additionally, testing the new workflow with different clinical and patient scenarios will facilitate a smooth go-live experience as well.

Culture Change

A new EHR system doesn’t just bring transformation for your systems, but also for your people and internal politics. To that end, do everything you can to make it exciting for all involved. Consider buying “implementation pride” t-shirts for staff to wear, budget for treats and rewards for when milestones are achieved, or hold other celebrations to recognize successes – no matter how big or small. While it’s important to listen to detractors and address their concerns, make sure it remains clear that all individuals who participate in patient encounters will be required to use the system.

In the end, the implementation of a robust EHR is one of the most important – and expensive – investments a healthcare organization will make.  The above best practices are great guiding principles for not only ensuring a smooth EHR implementation, but also maintaining momentum after implementation and beyond.  These are the types of strategies that can help your organization get implementation right and provide the foundation for successful, optimized healthcare services and continuity of care.

Matt Curren is Avaap EHR’s Revenue Cycle Practice Director. Matt works with healthcare organizations using Epic EHR solutions and address provider data management needs.