The EMR Implementation Process and Plan

With all the new regulations around healthcare, practices are finding themselves having to implement new EMR system s or risk financial penalties .

And though it brings a sea change for medical practices, it is heartening to see over 85% of office-based physicians have adopted an EMR system . That number is even higher when it comes to hospitals.

EMR implementations have their challenges , but with some strategic planning, many of these can be solved or reduced. In this post, we explore some of the most common problems a practice faces when it implements a new/replacement EMR system , and how you can prevent them.

What is EMR Implementation?

EMR implementation is the process of moving a medical practice from a paper charting system or an old EMR software to a new one.  Implementation will usually involve the following steps:

  • Pre-planning
  • Choosing a software
  • Customization
  • Training
  • Testing and validation

Finally, there’s the always dreaded Go-Live where everyone starts using the new software.

Top 10 Challenges Around EMR Implementations

Though the EMR implementation process does not have to be disruptive, some medical practices do encounter hurdles . Here are some of the major EMR implementation challenges that medical practices face.

1.High cost of implementation

This is the biggest hurdle for a lot of practices, especially smaller ones.  Studies show that the cost to purchase and install an EMR system can range from $15,000 to $70,000 per provider.  EMR implementation can come with unplanned expenses as well, such as interfaces, updating/upgrading equipment, and hardware.

2.Lack of planning

This causes more failures in implementing EMR systems than any other single factor.  Planning must be detailed and should take into account every aspect of the process.  

3.Insufficient technical resources

Not all practices, especially small and private practices, do not have an in-house technical team.  Buying hardware that meets the specifications required by the software is often a major obstacle as well.  It’s why having an experienced EMR partner can make a world of difference.

4.Time-consuming data migration and validation

Regardless of whether you are moving from a paper-based system or another EMR, your implementation process will include some type of data migration and validation.  This can be a very time-consuming and expensive process.  That said, ensuring data integrity is essential. 

5.Incompatible with other systems

EMR systems need the ability to exchange data and integrate with other providers and systems.  Does your practice have an in-house lab?  Your EMR system will need to communicate with your lab system to exchange information back and forth and ensure data is accurate. 

What is EMR Implementation

6.Shortcomings in the user interface

EMR systems are not a one-size-fits-all type of product.  Many factors affect the usability of an EMR system. If the EMR system is not a good fit for your practice and existing workflow, your staff and providers will have a difficult time accepting and adapting to the change.  

7.Staff resistance

You may find resistance in all departments of your practice, from staff that has little computer experience to providers who feel the system will slow them down and not be efficient.  

8.Inadequate training 

Training can be very time-consuming and difficult to work into the already busy schedule.  Physicians and management may fear the loss of business because of staff taking time away from their normal daily duties to spend on training.  Some may feel that spending time on training is not necessary.

9.Data privacy concerns 

There are very strict federal and state guidelines around the privacy of personal health information.  Violation of these guidelines comes with significant financial penalties.  

Being diligent when selecting an EMR system is only one aspect of protecting your patient data.  You also have to account for your internal infrastructure, where your information lives and is accessed from.  

If you choose a cloud-based system or a hosted system you need assurances that your patient data is secure and your service provider is HIPAA-compliant.  Having patient data “live” outside the walls of your practice does not eliminate your responsibility for making sure the data is secure.

10.Lack of communication

The implementation process needs to have practice-wide communication throughout the process.  Not communicating the change with staff can mean they are unprepared and, consequently, uninvested. 

EMR Challenges and 7 Things You Can Do to Ensure Successful Implementation

EMR Challenges

It can all seem like a bitter pill to swallow, but 63% of doctors feel that EMR systems have improved patient care . The best thing for making the process of incorporating new EMR smoother is – planning .

Expect disruptions to your productivity during implementation and be clear about outcomes. 

Reduced productivity is less stressful if you plan for it.  Staff is more willing to adjust to new workflows if they are informed of potential disruption. Even telling patients that you are going through a transition process can prevent them from forming negative opinions.

Here are seven things that can help make the path to a successful implementation smoother.

1. Make patient care the primary goal

EMR implementations are all about the quality of patient care.  How the system will benefit patients should be at the forefront of all decisions.

2. Have a strategic plan

Having a detailed implementation plan in place from the beginning is essential.  Be overly detailed, form a team with members from every department, assign specific duties and responsibilities to team members, have regular meetings, have backup plans for things that can go wrong.

3. Communicate with consultants and vendors 

Implementation is a collaborative effort and requires all parties to work together.  Communicate your needs and expected outcomes from the beginning with your vendors, consultants, and IT staff. That will go far in keeping your project on time, on budget, and positioning it for success.

4. Ensure strong leadership

Have people on your implementation team that have experience with deploying new systems and who approach the project proactively and with positivity.  Having a team that includes a representative from every department of the practice will also help with successful implementation.

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5. Set realistic timelines

Implementation of EMR systems should not be rushed, you need a realistic timeline but also want to reduce any extensions to the timeline that can increase your costs.  Having a detailed plan that takes into account all aspects of the process will help reduce any unnecessary slips to your timeline that can be costly.

6. Plan ahead for training

Begin training as soon as possible!  The purpose of EMR implementations is to improve processes and efficiency as well as staying compliant.  The sooner your start the process the less stress for management and staff.  Be creative with getting staff to participate in training.

7. Work with experts

Working with people who have in-depth knowledge of the implementation process , project manager s , workflow development, data migration, and the overall EMR system will ultimately save you time and money.

How should you begin?

What is the best way to legislate for EMR challenges? Have a detailed plan.

  • Develop your team of staff and experts.   Include at least one person from every department.
  • Prepare a list of must-haves, wants, and desires.  Be realistic in knowing you most likely will not get everything you want
  • Plan for every aspect of the process, from choosing an EMR system to training, migration, validation, testing of interfaces, and even something as simple as printing.
  • It is better to “break the system” during the testing phases than it is to have a major problem on Go-Live day that affects patient care.
  • Have a backup plan in case things do not go as planned.

Keep your staff and implementation team informed. It’s going to impact their workflow and the more they know, the more motivated and positive about the change they will be.

Deploying a new or replacement EMR system is an exciting opportunity, with a lot of scope for improving your efficiency and patient care. Contact us today and find out how we assist practices of all sizes to make the EMR leap.

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