The Ten Commandments of EHR Implementation

The other day, I wrote an article giving 7 steps to follow when searching for and implementing an EHR into your practice. Today, I return with The Ten Commandments of EHR Implementation. These commandments should be taken as commitments that you are making to your practice, your staff, and yourself. Keep these in the back of your head as you go through the process of putting your EHR to work!

1. Thou shalt engage staff in creating an implementation roadmap, splitting the process into smaller, achievable goals.

Bringing a new piece of software into your practice can sometimes seem daunting, especially when half of your staff haven’t the slightest clue as to which direction your business his heading. Engaging all of your staff in the implementation process will not only help smooth out the transition to digital, it will also bring up relevant questions regarding EHR functionality and your staff’s responsibilities during implementation. Splitting the objective into smaller, achievable goals gives you the opportunity to set a timeframe for implementation, as well as a way to measure success of implementation.

2. Thou shalt select staff members to become keystone users within the practice.

Once the process begins, it will be important for your practice to have certain staff members that are “subject-matter experts” in the software of your choice. This will ensure that your office always has someone readily-available for quick questions that are easily tackled in-office rather than speaking to your EHRs support team. Your keystone users are your local knowledge base for easy questions and quick answers.

3. Thou shalt attend training and informational sessions with your EHR vendor.

Regardless of the ease of use advertised by your EHR vendor, it doesn’t mean that there is no learning curve. While your learning curve may be narrower than others’, it’s still important to get the down-low on features, functionality and best practices. Successful EHR vendors will provide training and informational sessions where you get a chance to ask questions and listen in. Remember, these trainings are organized WITH YOU IN MIND! Make sure you get the most of your session by having questions prepared, being actively involved in the learning process.

4. Thou shalt read over your EHR’s technical documentation and instructions before using the service.

You’ve been using your new EHR for a few weeks now and you think you got the hang of it. You then run a report, only to find out that all of the data you’ve been storing has no way of being reported on! It’s happened in the past, and it will surely happen again in the future if you don’t go over your EHR’s user documentation to make sure that you are following best practices and are appropriately storing data. Don’t wait until an issue arises…by then there may be more than just one problem to be solved.

5. Thou shalt become familiar with Meaningful Use as used in your choice of EHR.

If you are part of the “elite group” of Eligible Professionals, make sure that you not only have a good grasp of Meaningful Use regulations as dictated by CMS and ONC, but also have a good foundation on how this regulation plays out in your choice of software. Whether you’re simply transitioning or are now converting from paper to digital, staying on top of Meaningful Use functionality will not only bring your practice more money, it will also ensure that you will not be penalized in the future.

6. Thou shalt encourage staff to become familiar with Meaningful Use criteria.

For quickest and most accurate reporting, your staff should at least have a general overview of what Meaningful Use is, how it pertains to their responsibilities in the office, and how Meaningful Use may impact the way they perform their jobs day-in & day-out. CMS has a great overview of Meaningful Use right here.

7. Thou shalt ensure that your staff (and yourself) is using your EHR in a “Meaningful Use” way.

If you are planning to attest for ARRA $$$, it’s imperative that your entire office is on the same page as far as functionality, procedures and best practices. Make sure your staff is charting appropriately, gathering the right amount and type of demographical information, ePrescribing, signing notes etc.

8. Thou shalt not fear changes in your practice’s daily workflows.

Good EHR vendors will create software that minimally impacts your workflow. However, there is no solution out there that can claim absolutely no impact on the way you interact with records…if this was so, you’d still be using paper charts. Be open to positive changes in your workflow. The purpose of EHRs is to make your life and work easier. If this doesn’t happen, then you either violated one of the other 9 commandments, or perhaps its time for a change.

9. Thou shalt hire a consultant if the thought of independently tracking meaningful usage becomes overwhelming.

There’s a reason why the market for EHR Implementation consulting is a fast-growing business. The demand is out there because so much information becomes a hassle to understand and implement. Regardless of whether or not you are looking to attest for Meaningful Use, an implementation consultant can be a great local tool to have. Consultants already have project roadmaps set in place, they know what works and what doesn’t, and they will make the implementation process much smoother and faster. If time is of the essence, and if time is more valuable than money, the search for a good consultant may be worth your while.

10. Thou shalt make use of your EHR vendor’s support services.

Got stuck? Is a feature not working the way you expect it to work? Don’t give up and don’t just leave it in someone else’s hands. Pick up the phone, open your email client, or join a chat session to get your questions answered by people who know what they are talking about! Your vendor of choice should have a support system in place, created with the special task of handling usage and feature issues.

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