The Art of EHR Implementation
While each EHR is different in terms of workflow, training, and usage, there are certain steps one can take in order to ensure a successful and smooth transition from paper charts to digital. From my experience working in HealthIT, here are 7 steps I recommend taking when selecting AND implementing an EHR into your practice. This is also the part where I disclose that I do work for an EHR vendor (Mitochon Systems).
- The first major step in the EHR adoption pathway is forming an EHR Selection Committee. I can assure you that forming a committee is NOT a waste of time and resources. Who takes part of your selection committee is a matter of personal preference and staff abilities, however, you should consider including a technology consultant (“the IT guy”), members of your nursing staff, as well as other providers within the practice. Think of adopting an EHR as marriage. Through thick and thin, for better or for worse. You want to make sure you get it right the first time as divorcing your EHR and finding someone else could be a painstaking process.
- The selection committee should focus on two key aspects: a) what are the characteristics of a suitable EHR for your practice?; b) what is an acceptable, achievable timeline for implementation? You must be specific in the types of functions your EHR will have. You must also make sure that the new piece of software will have as little impact in your day-day workflow as possible (keep in mind that NO EHR will be able to leave your workflow unchanged….it’s just the nature of software).
- Once your selection committee is set, it’s important to begin talking about an implementation roadmap. By when should the team identify a suitable EHR for your practice? Who are the key players that will first learn the system? How will you go about data transfer or conversion? Will there be a consultant involved or is it done in-house?
- The Keystone User(s) - once you’ve selected your EHR, it will be important to designate at least one keystone user that will be the “subject matter expert” in your office. While you can always get get on the phone to call support, having someone knowledgeable in the office will always serve you best. The keystone user will be the “go-to person” when new features are released and people need updates.
- Test Groups - depending on the size of your practice, it may be a good idea to first do a trial run with just one doctor. This will help you learn the system better, tweak your implementation process and have a clean transition for the other doctors in the practice. Someone has to be the guinea pig right?
- Training Staff - when the dotted line is signed, you need to make sure that everyone on your team is trained in using the system. One loose cog in the wheel and your progress toward Meaningful Use can be seriously impaired. Getting your staff trained in a timely fashion will not only ensure accurate chart completion, but will also promote a steadfast movement toward successful MU attestation.
- GoLive - once your staff is trained, its time to hit the stage! All of your keystone users should be present during your golive period to ensure a smooth transition from the old fashioned paper charts to your brand new EHR system.