With electronic health records (EHR), hospital physicians, nurses and other clinicians are able to view the complete — and up-to-date — medical histories of their patients. When implemented correctly, EHR lets healthcare organizations securely view patient data on-site and remotely.
However, in a bid to quickly transition from paper to EHR, many healthcare organizations opted to adopt EHR solutions without paying enough attention to customizing the suite for their needs (KPMG). As a result, these healthcare providers are overcoming issues in terms of inefficiency and end-user problems which could have been prevented at the planning stage.
The planning stage — i.e., the EHR readiness assessment — is critical for identifying your gaps in terms of hardware, software, processes and expertise.
By understanding these gaps, you’ll have actionable insights to fix them with the right procurement and configuration work.
The idea is to implement and configure your EHR system such that it delivers on your efficiency and return-on-investment (ROI) goals the first time. Moreover, a readiness assessment protects your hospital/clinic as well as staff from EHR-specific problems (such as slow-loading speeds).
Why You Need an EHR Readiness Assessment
There are two aspects to consider.
Firstly, EHR implementation is expensive. In fact, a multi-physician practice could expect to spend roughly $162,000 on EHR implementation and sustain an additional $85,000 in annual maintenance and support costs (EHR in Practice). Hospitals will spend in the range of up to $5 million and, in some cases, more than $20 million on EHR implementation (EHR in Practice).
If your EHR system isn’t correctly implemented, then you’re at risk of sustaining follow-on costs as a result of lost productivity, patients leaving for competing hospitals or clinics and, not least, optimizing your EHR system to make it work as it was originally intended.
Secondly, an assessment helps ensure that your clinicians’ requirements are being addressed. Although EHR providers are offering a range of attractive features, you want to ensure that the EHR solution is compatible with how your organization and staff work.
For example, EHR with an emphasis on alerts is of little use to physicians and/or nurses that dislike distractions when viewing their patients’ medical histories. A mismatch here can have a negative impact on your staff’s ability to deliver high-quality healthcare services to patients.
Always Start with an EHR Readiness Assessment
Before continuing, we should note that EHR readiness assessments are for providers planning to implement an EHR system. Healthcare organizations with pre-existing EHR systems — and EHR-related problems — should look at EHR optimization.
As for hospitals, clinics and other healthcare organizations planning to shift to EHR systems (or to a new EHR platform).
Your readiness assessment must examine the following areas:
Your future EHR system depends on IT hardware and software. Your readiness assessment must include a review of your existing hardware and software assets.
The goal is to uncover potential gaps in your capabilities, such as computers being too slow, legacy operating systems (lacking sufficient security capabilities) and/or inadequate cloud or on-premise hosting infrastructure to support EHR data.
Regarding data storage, an assessment will also determine if your IT infrastructure complies with each of your regulatory commitments, such as HIPAA.
You must ensure that you have allocated enough funding for purchasing, installing, configuring and maintaining your EHR system. This is a significant investment, one that will take shape in the form of new computers, servers, software and, potentially, cloud services.
However, besides budgeting, your assessment should also provide a cost-benefit analysis of the switch and pricing information about different EHR options.
Stakeholders & Patient Relationships
Your stakeholders should be aware of your plans to switch over to EHR. Firstly, your patients are concerned about the privacy and security of their medical information.
Your assessment is key to gauging the awareness and readiness of your patients about the switch to EHR. They may express some uncertainty or apprehension about the switch due to cyber security issues such as hacking and data breaches.
You can use these insights to ensure that your patients’ concerns are being respected and identify other gaps, such as the risk of having too many with access to patient data.
In addition to your patients, you should also have input from the physicians, nurses and other staff expected to use your EHR system. According to a study by Deloitte, most organizations and EHR vendors don’t ask physicians for feedback.
Learn More about Hospital/Clinic EHR Issues:
- Top 7 EHR Usability Issues in 2018
- Why You Need EHR Optimization
- How EHR Speeds Impact Physician Productivity
Skill Gaps & Training
Your physicians, nurses and hospital/clinic administrative staff will be the primary users of your new EHR system.
You must ensure that you have training programs in place to equip your staff to properly use the EHR system, especially since there is a steep learning curve involved.
There is no point aiming for a big bang, one-and-done roll-out if your healthcare organization is not adequately prepared to handle disruptions, training and other interim technical difficulties.
A small clinic might be able to sustain a rapid roll-out, but a hospital should lean towards a phased roll-out so as to mitigate risk and reduce operational disruptions.
Transferring From Paper to EHR
You must ensure that you have a concrete plan in place to transfer current and incoming patient information that is still on paper to EHR.
This could involve allocating — and training — some of your staff to carry out the data entry work, and to do it without any errors.
From ensuring the efficiency of your hospital/clinic operations to gaining return-on-investment, you cannot afford mistakes with your EHR implementation efforts.
Much of your success in EHR implementation is tied to the capacity of your IT infrastructure, especially the assets you’re planning to use to host your EHR data. Be it performance or the security of your EHR system, you must have proven EHR-related IT experience in-hand.
True North brings over 14 years of experience providing healthcare organizations of all sizes support with designing, installing, configuring, maintaining and updating their EHR assets. Contact us today to close gaps in your IT so that you roll-out EHR correctly, the first time.