In this article, we will explain best practices for implementing an EHR system.
The launch of an electronic health record (EHR) system takes significant planning, collaboration, and coordination. The EHR implementation plan should be fleshed out at the start to reduce costs during implementation and maximize ROI after the rollout. A well-executed EHR also has the potential to significantly improve patient care, quality, and outcomes.
EHR Implementation Steps: Get Your Checklist for Success
The EHR implementation process can be modular or step-by-step. Regardless of what route you choose, the planning phase is crucial for successful EHR implementation. When creating an EHR implementation project plan, you also must consider the general context for the system and the infrastructure that comprises it.
(Note: Throughout this and other resources, you may see EHR implementation referred to as electronic medical records implementation or EMR implementation. For the purposes of this post, the terms are interchangeable).
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Step-by-Step Guide on How to Implement an EHR System
1. Set a Clear Roadmap
Start with a full assessment of your facility and its readiness to adopt an EHR. Find out if the available infrastructure, clinical processes, education, and training can support EHR system implementation.
One of the causes of botched EHR implementations is the failure by management to evaluate its needs from the outset. High-level executives must be involved in the planning process to accurately assess the current state of medical practices and capabilities.
They also need to clarify which functions they need in the EHR system and identify critical success metrics to assess after go-live.
2. Establish Strong Leadership
Another critical element of your EHR project plan is appointing an experienced, wise steering committee. In a typical EHR implementation plan template, the implementation team comprises a project manager (may also serve as the practice manager), an application analyst, application developer, QA test engineer, physician advocate, nurse advocate, and billing advocate.
There should be an open and collaborative exchange of information between the team members throughout the implementation process.
3. Define Budget Limits and Projections
A common downfall in the EMR implementation process is investing a massive amount of resources into EHR only to get lackluster ROI. Your organization should seek to lower costs and increase the quality of healthcare services.
In an EHR implementation plan example developed by the Healthcare Financial Management Association, you can observe how the budget breaks down into human resources, supplies, administrative, and other important line items.
Whatever your current EHR budget projections, you can often expect to pay about $6,000 more than initially expected due to extra costs resulting from implementing the system, performing maintenance, and establishing security measures.
However, a clearly defined budget can help you mitigate these as much as possible. Ensure that the budget includes:
- System upgrades
- Customization consultancy
- Training fees
- Cloud migration costs including backup and storage
- Consultancy costs
4. Prepare the Infrastructure
The information technology infrastructure for your EHR implementations should incorporate robust security protocols and quick disaster recovery strategies to guarantee efficiency and high uptime. Its architecture should include components such as registries, interoperability, security, privacy, and safety.
One non-negotiable: your system must be HIPAA compliant. You can always work with an expert EHR vendor or consultant to ensure complete compliance.
Beyond software, you will also need to assess and implement your hardware needs. Hardware preparation entails additional printer installation and supplying each staff member with the appropriate technology tools.
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5. Transfer data
Once your infrastructure is ready, the next step when implementing a certified ehr software is data transfer from your legacy system. Start by analyzing the best approach for patient and physician ease. Seamless data migration reduces clinical staff frustrations and improves user buy-in. To ease the data transfer process, consider:
- Defining the migration parameters; what needs to be transferred and how large the backup should be
- Training data entry staff
- Creating a workflow sheet for utmost clarity on data entry
- Checking and double-checking that all information is inputted correctly
- Storing the paper charts safely
6. Deliver EHR Training Sessions
At this stage, you must look at the training aspect of your EHR implementation in order to get your staff members to buy into the new EHR system. The training should be comprehensive and customized, highlighting the significant benefits of an EHR and how to implement EHR successfully.
In this EHR implementation step, consider:
- Assembling a highly skilled training team
- Designating super users as departmental points of contact
- Creating a training timeline with clearly set goals
- Modifying training to users’ current skill levels
- Encouraging staff to follow along in real-time for a practical experience
7. Get Ready for Go-Live
To avoid major hiccups, it’s imperative to test your new EHR in a simulated scenario or production environment before the live launch.
By this time, your staff should be well-versed in the system’s functionalities and their roles in using it to its fullest potential. All essential data should have been migrated to the EHR. You should also have established workflow processes for each individual and department, including billing, clinical documentation, scheduling, and patient follow-up.
During the testing phase, implementation staff should be ready to find and address breakdowns in real-time. On the actual launch day, you may also consider lowering patient volume to address staff anxiety. Inform clients about the launch and enlighten them about ways in which this innovation serves and benefits patients.
Finally, when new features, modules, or content are available, ensure to enact an incremental or phased release to avoid widespread errors and issues.
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8. Post-Launch Reflection
The stages of EHR implementation do not stop at go-live; the launch of your EHR system is just the beginning. This process is continuous, iterative, and requires ongoing training.
After the launch, consider optimizing areas such as:
- Patient satisfaction: Aim to reduce frustrations
- Productivity levels: Set reasonable expectations to keep staff motivated
- Return on investment: Perform calculations to assess progress toward goal metrics
- Data error rates: Determine input quality and identify where additional training is needed
- Data collection, billing, and reporting: Make adjustments as needed to improve operations across the board
Benefits of Implementing an EHR System
There are many benefits of EHRs over paper records, including:
- Accessibility: The system can be accessed simultaneously by different people in multiple locations.
- Multiple views: EHR offers different visualizations for user-specific
- Communication: EHR facilitates a seamless exchange of information between various providers.
- Patient support: EHR can be linked with personal health records to improve interaction with patents
- Data aggregation: Groups and summaries can be created from large volumes of data
- Connection to additional knowledge: EHR provides access to knowledge bases when your team needs it
To achieve these benefits, however, you must first take on the task of implementation. This is a complex process – but it does not have to be daunting or confusing. Using the right partner, you can set up your EHR system to adapt and grow with you as the healthcare landscape continues to shift.
Contact True North for help with your EHR implementation project management.