With over 85% of office-based physicians and more than 96% of hospitals using EMR today, it’s easy to believe that most healthcare providers have found the right EMR solution for their practice. But that’s simply not the case.
However, the true EMR conversion definition goes way beyond just migrating between software solutions. Find out what switching from one EMR solution to another successfully entails.
Despite its pervasiveness in today’s American healthcare system, the electronic medical record is still a recent innovation. In just the past few decades, hospitals and clinicians have been hyper-focused on completing the process to convert paper to electronic medical records. Now, many groups and organizations are already seeing a pressing need to convert their electronic medical records (EMRs) to a new system that is more conducive to their needs.
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EMR Conversion Definition and What it Entails
To start, let’s discuss what electronic medical records conversion entails. In short, the conversion process involves migrating all patient health records from a legacy platform to a more advanced, integrated EMR system.
This may sound like a straightforward transfer of data, but the conversion journey is not that simple. Converting EMR-to-EMR can be all-consuming—financially, logistically, and operationally. It requires extensive preparation and requires immense dedication by staff and leaders to smoothly migrate patient data and reorient to a new platform.
Once a new contract is signed, it is time to begin implementing the selected electronic health record (EHR). While the selection process is quite a significant hurdle to have overcome, many challenging stages remain. It is one thing to ask, “what is EMR conversion?” but entirely another to ask, “what is a great EMR conversion?”
A great EMR conversion is comprehensively planned and well-supported by leadership across the organization. Linda Harrington, a nurse executive and veteran in EMR conversions, noted, “The experience is never the same, but the lessons are clear: the better the planning upfront, and the better the execution of that plan, the better the conversion.”
Why Healthcare Organizations Migrate Between EMR Software
Now that we have established an EMR conversion definition, we can explore why healthcare groups and organizations are moving toward establishing new EMR systems. Given the heft of a typical conversion project and the high cost of EMR systems, why not stick with the original version or platform? There are actually several reasons that new EMR implementation is becoming a nationwide trend:
- Current EHR contract is ending, and new options are available for evaluation
- Current software has aged out and will no longer be supported
- Current EHR vendor does not have the capabilities necessary for users to be compliant with new regulations, initiatives, or models
- Critical customizations for patient care delivery are unavailable or ineffective
- Integration between EMR and other essential technologies is impossible or unreasonable
- Security breaches and lack of adequate safety improvements cause concern for managers, users, and patients
- Vendor fails to solve productivity and workflow issues experienced by clinicians when using the platform
Though these reasons are some of the most common, any number of EMR challenges or opportunities for improvement can be a driving force toward adopting the functions of a new EHR system. A 2020 journal article quipped, “As there can never be a perfect spouse, there can never be a perfect EMR.” However, organizations can experience highly impactful advantages by switching to an EHR vendor and platform that aligns more closely with their needs, priorities, and goals.
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Factors to Consider for EHR Conversion
- What data from your current electronic medical records you are going to convert
- 3rd party vendors
- Data quality and data validation
- All other healthcare software applications
Strategic Planning and Execution
Have a well-thought-out plan that involves at least one key individual from every department of your practice. Start by understanding the scope of the project:
- Data – What data in your current EMR system do you want to move to the new system and what is the priority/must-haves for these items?
- Data quality – Moving to a new EMR is a great chance to “clean up” and ensure you have a fresh start.
- Archiving vs. integrating – Having a specific plan for making historical charts available to providers is vital.
- Wants and desires vs. Possibilities – Having a clear understanding of this from the beginning and a thought-out EHR implementation plan will ensure successful EMR conversion.
Selecting Right EMR Data Conversion Services
Finding the best EMR system is often the hardest part, but also the most critical for successfully transitioning EMR systems. Work with an EMR-experienced data conversion specialist to identify solutions that fit seamlessly with your practice.
10 Steps for a Successful EMR Conversion
A new system has been selected, and it is time for the EMR conversion assignment to begin. Now, how do you implement a successful EMR? Our experts here at True North have pulled from their vast experience implementing and transitioning EMRs to share 10 steps for a smooth transition:
- Engage key leaders and staff to gain buy-in. This group should always include representatives from the revenue cycle and clinical teams.
- Allocate resources, assign roles, and set aside finances for the project so that responsibilities are clear and boundaries are established.
- Select which data are moving to the new system according to organizational needs and compliance requirements. Also, decide how to safely archive data and dispose of anything now deemed useless.
- Identify what needs to be manually entered into the new EMR versus what can be comprehensively handled by automation. Perform a proactive data cleanup to support as much automation as possible.
- Start testing the transition. Practice does not make perfect, but it does help organizations avoid tricky pitfalls during real data conversions.
- Train, train, and then train some more. The process of learning a new EMR and adjusting to the new patterns that accompany it will be much easier if robust training is conducted before, during, and after conversion.
- Establish a layered validation approach to verify data from multiple points of view. These layers often include the IT team, departmental experts, and clinical champions.
- Map your data’s journey from the legacy EHR to the new system to ensure that it will arrive in an easily accessible and fully actionable format.
- Execute the move! Depending on how clean the data needs to be, an organization may need to conduct multiple extractions.
- Monitor staff morale and make necessary adjustments. Even with an immense amount of concentrated EMR testing, planning and training, the transition process is still remarkably difficult and chock full of challenges. Keep an eye on how your team members are doing, regularly ask for their feedback, and prioritize EMR support services that would enhance their work lives.
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The journey from “so, what is EMR conversion?” to “wow, we did it!”
If you’ve read this far, you now know that EMR conversions are an intense—and increasingly imperative—process for many clinician groups and healthcare systems. Even so, it can be an incredibly valuable experience if you understand the nuances and are prepared for the challenge. In closing, we wanted to share a few helpful tips that can help you execute an EMR transition effectively and on schedule:
- Manage expectations from the start. Prepare your staff for the time and effort that it will take to carry out the conversion process. If they know what to expect, they can more effectively adapt their workflows and plans to accommodate and maintain productivity.
- Consult with an experienced partner. Rather than scrambling to hire new staff with transition experience, rely on experts to guide you through the process.
- Pay special attention to nurses. Nurses play a huge part in EHR conversions and need an influx of support to adapt to new systems while keeping patient care at the highest quality. Since you likely won’t need the extra nurses beyond the 13 weeks of transition, travel nurses are often a perfect solution.
- Remain HIPAA compliant. It is of the utmost importance to keep patient safety at the forefront throughout the entire conversion process. If a decision could compromise HIPAA compliance, it is not a good decision to make.
Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Find out what are some of the most common mistakes in an EMR conversion assignment and how you can avoid them:
- Failing to move legacy data – Have a plan for moving all legacy data that is possible
- Not utilizing an experienced data migration company – Ensure your data migration company has EMR data experience, ask for references
- Overlooking the inability to integrate with other vital systems – Planning ahead for all systems you currently integrate with or need to integrate with
- Failure to develop a plan for capturing new data after the conversion process has started – Make sure your conversion plan includes a process for capturing and migrating new data that occurs after the migration data capture date
- Inadequate training – Training should involve every member of your staff; you cannot train too much
- Inadequate data validation and verification – Data validation and verification should be performed by multiple members of your staff, multiple sets of eyes are better than one
- Neglecting to remain HIPAA compliant during migration – Have an EMR experienced conversion/migration company and make sure your IT department is fully involved in your project
Make Your EHR data conversion Seamless
Stop asking “what is EMR conversion?” and work with leading healthcare IT experts. With over 14 years of experience in Healthcare IT consulting, TrueNorth ITG can facilitate all of your EMR conversion projects. Contact us today to discuss your requirements.