An EHR system can be a significant investment, and adopting one is certainly one of the most far reaching changes that your medical practice may make. However, even with the many benefits that they offer, selecting the best EHR system for your practice requires some serious due diligence.
In my last post I discussed the most common reasons for EHR installation failure. And understanding those reasons is paramount to developing a proper strategic mindset to get your practice to realize a successful EHR system implementation. So, with that in mind, consider that no matter where you are in the EHR selection or implementation process, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of a successful outcome.
My top ten ways to ensure a successful EHR implementation:
- Perform “EHR Due Diligence” – before, during and after the selection and implementation process. Do your best to make sure the vendors you are considering will be around for the next 10 or 20 years, that the system is Certified EHR Technology – and a hundred other qualifications and issues.
- Use selection criteria that fit your practice to assess potential systems for the best overall EHR for your practice. For instance, are you looking for an EHR that’s specialty oriented? Are you in an area with limited internet access? Then think carefully about systems that are only available over the internet.
- Look at the right systems. For instance, EHR vendors often target specific markets by specialty or number of providers in a practice. If you are a solo practitioner, don’t look at vendors who target practices of 100 or more.
- If you are looking for an EHR to interface to your existing practice management system, then make sure both vendors are committed to maintaining that interface over the long term.
- Think about how things will change, and plan for those changes. Will you be bringing billing in-house as part of this change? If so, you’d better get acquainted with the market place for billing staff, with clearinghouses and many other issues.
- Make sure you have completed an apples-to-apples comparison of the costs of EHR systems. Vendors use many different pricing schemes, some including third-party software such as e-prescribing, some requiring you to pay extra for it. Make sure you capture everything for your return on investment analysis.
- After the selection process, the next major hurdle is the implementation process. Despite what vendors say, EHR implementation is a major strain on most practices, and is often the area where the potential for failure begins to take root. Do not underestimate the resources of time and effort needed for training, system setup, hardware installation and testing, and many other issues that will all need attention at once.
- Every EHR system installation will be disruptive. The trick is to prepare for and manage the disruption. You can’t give people time off during critical training. Training has to be thorough and followed by practice. Schedules during the go-live period must be adjusted for the learning curve of providers and staff. Patients must be advised of the changeover, and reminded of how positive the change will be. And, again, a hundred other issues. Lack of a firm commitment to live through the inevitable disruption is another major cause of failed installations.
- The functionality required of EHR systems is going to evolve over time. For instance, although systems that are currently Certified EHR Technology will enable physician practices to meet the objectives identified in the EHR Stage 1 Meaningful Use final rule, upgrades to systems will very likely be necessary as the government drafts and implements Stage Two Meaningful Use Objectives. Make sure your system vendor is committed to keeping up with these changes as they come out over the next few years.
- Will your practice grow significantly in the next few years? If so, make sure the system you’re selecting can handle that growth. While for many EHR systems, adding more provider users shouldn’t be an issue, make sure the vendor agrees – and get it in writing.
EHR Success vs. EHR Failure: planning, execution, and knowing when to ask for help
There are undoubtedly many reasons that EHR systems become failed installations. Sometimes it’s the system, sometimes it’s the people, and sometimes it’s just lack of organization or perseverance. Whatever the cause, failure can be prevented through great planning and execution. If you don’t have the resources in house, consider the use of outside expertise to help you through the process. A qualified EHR consultant can be an investment that pays dividends for years to come.