Nine Steps for Successful EHR Implementation
SummaryThe Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology states that electronic health records can greatly improve medical organizations’ productivity and urges healthcare providers to adopt one. While statistics on EHR usage look great, with about 90% of the US hospitals already having a such system installed, the low level of satisfaction with EHRs gives a cause for alarm. More than a half of clinicians are unhappy with their system, listing it as the reason for burnout and accusing software vendors of delivering poorly-made solutions that cost too much. So why is there such a gap between expectations and reality?
- Author Company: Itransition
- Author Name: Liza Dzhezhora
- Author Website: https://www.itransition.com/
To bring its benefits, an EHR solution should be properly implemented, but it is easier said than done. Healthcare providers often embark on the EHR adoption journey without a solid strategy, which leads to all kinds of issues, from adopting a solution with a set of features that don’t fit their type of organization to inadequate personnel training. If you’re considering adopting an EHR system in the near future, take a look at the EHR implementation roadmap we prepared to assist healthcare providers in this journey.
1. Define a roadmap
This is probably the most crucial and also the trickiest step. There are a lot of variables one should consider while drafting an EHR implementation plan: what assets do you have, the current state of your IT infrastructure, the existing workflows, the requirements for the future system, the desired deployment model, and so on. It is also advisable to make the implementation plan as detailed and specific as possible.
2. Set a budget
EHR should be an investment, not a liability, so calculate the projected return and proceed from there. Most healthcare providers find that the system costs more than they expected due to unforeseeable expenses, so consider them as well. Also, make sure to include the cost of license or subscription, training, hardware upgrades, etc. into your calculations.
3. Assemble a team
No one knows what works best for your healthcare organization than the employees themselves. If you want your staff to be satisfied with the EHR solution, include them in the implementation process. Gather a team of specialists who will collaborate with the tech vendor and help create an EHR tailored to your organization’s actual clinical workflows and specifics.
4. Prepare the software, hardware, and network
To deliver the expected experience and results, your EHR software must run smoothly on your hardware and be fully integrated into your organization’s IT ecosystem. Moreover, clinicians must have easy access to the system, and the network must be secure. Last but not least, don’t forget about HIPAA compliance and other safety measures to keep patient data protected.
5. Ask for feedback
It’s necessary to conduct usability testing at every stage of EHR implementation. The team of clinicians is more likely to detect flaws and potential issues, so they should regularly review the system and submit their feedback to the developers. Once the solution is fully operational, expert review, performance testing, usability testing, and risk assessment should be performed. If you add some features later, they may degrade the system’s performance, so additional testing is required.
Step 6. Migrate data
The importance of successful data migration is hard to overstate since EHR performance largely depends on the quality and accuracy of input data. To avoid data loss, compromise, or misplacement, it’s best to treat the data migration process as a separate complex project with multiple steps: planning, data preparation, design, execution (which includes extraction, transformation, and loading), testing, audit, and maintenance. In many cases, the best decision is to hire a migration consultant to walk you through this process.
7. Set up a personnel training program
Remember that you aim to train basic users, not experts, so start with educating personnel on basic commands that everyone in the organization needs to know, provide necessary security training, and then conduct more in-depth sessions for those who need advanced skills. As for the format, there are a variety of options including live presentations, training software with personalized questionnaires, peer-to-peer mentorship, etc. Check what your vendor has to offer and what your facilities are equipped for, and take steps to make the training process comfortable for the participants.
8. Outline a disaster recovery plan
After a series of unpredicted emergencies in recent years (the COVID pandemic, monkeypox and hepatitis epidemics, natural disasters, etc.), disaster readiness became a priority for most healthcare organizations. Make sure that your solution can be up and running as quickly as possible in case of a disruption, with patient data remaining safe and secure.
9. Keep improvements rolling
The world is changing fast, and so should your EHR. Your organization will grow, which means your EHR must be scalable to incorporate larger amounts of data and withstand higher traffic loads. The emergence of new industry challenges might push medical organizations to provide new types of services (like what happened with the rapid adoption of telemedicine in the times of COVID), which have to be supported by EHRs.
General technological advancements also may create opportunities for EHR features’ improvement. For example, AI algorithms may speed up and simplify patient data input, so your system should be ready for upgrades. This is why you should keep an eye out for industry trends and enhance the system to your advantage.
Electronic health records can be a powerful tool for clinicians that enables them to see the complete picture of their patients’ conditions and make better clinical decisions. However, many healthcare providers don’t know how to approach this tool, and switching to the EHR may seem overwhelming and not worth the effort.
Breaking the implementation process into a series of well-defined steps helps to reduce stress and contributes to the successful adoption of the system.