Electronic health records are no longer considered a tool that a portion of the industry’s providers use to enhance their daily procedures and reduce medical errors. They are essential aspects of a successful practice or medical facility. EHR systems are key for improving interoperability and stepping up patient engagement efforts – two of the major improvements the health care industry has started to work toward over the past year. This is why the number of providers who are adopting EHRs is continuously growing.
For those getting started, one of the essential elements to implementing a new EHR system is properly preparing staff and providing enough support to ensure that the process goes smoothly. Whether providers are implementing their EHR systems into a small practice or a large facility with hundreds of staff members, getting ready by taking note of these tips will make the transition from paper to electronic documentation easier.
1. Set pre-implementation goals
Establishing firm goals to achieve throughout the EHR implementation process, such as tentative deadlines or certain improvements to daily workflows, before the system goes live will make sure that steps are taken in a timely and progressive manner. For example, providers should make a list of all of the difficulties and setbacks they faced as a result of their paper-based or ineffective EHR systems and translate these to improvements they expect from their new EHRs. After the system goes live, they can take note of which issues are being resolved and which still need more work. This will make identifying implementation obstacles and outlining strategies to smooth out any consistent wrinkles easier.
2. Tailor training sessions to specific roles
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services noted that it may be more effective to establish training sessions that address the needs of each department within the practice. For example, set up different training times for IT support staff, office staff and clinicians to ensure that they know how to use the system when going about their specific daily processes. This may seem more time-consuming at first, but allowing staff to ask trainers and coaches questions concerning specific obstacles they may face performing their jobs will prevent setbacks later in the process.
3. Ensure engagement between physicians and coaches
During the adoption process, physicians and their staff need to constantly communicate to identify any obstacles they may be facing as they learn to navigate the new system. As each department throughout a facility or practice goes live with their EHRs, physicians should be able to inform trainers and coaches of these issues to avoid setbacks. For example, CMIO Julie Hollberg, M.D., of Emory Healthcare in Georgia, recently spoke to EHR Intelligence about how her organization successfully tackled the implementation process.
“During the week of go-live we have twice a day conference calls with the physician lead, clinical operations and administrative practice leads to go over the ongoing list of what the issues are and be able to react to those real time,” Hollberg told the source. “The week after go-live, we move from twice a day conference calls to three times a week. However, the coaches are there on an ongoing basis and have a daily meeting or debrief and issues that are a problem are escalated to us.”
Start with 30-day follow-ups with coaches, and as staff gets more comfortable with the system and mistakes become less frequent, reduce these follow-ups to 60- and then 90-day stretches.
4. Invest in a vendor that offers ample support
Depending on a practice’s EHR vendor, staff may have the support needed during implementation or be left in the dark. Providers should seek out reputable vendors that offer high-quality technical assistance, software support and maintenance packages for system upgrades and updates and accessible change-request forms when alterations to their systems are required.
One of a medical staff’s biggest challenges when adapting to a new EHR system – or one for the first time – is often becoming comfortable with navigating EHRs so that they properly meet meaningful use requirements. This is why investing in a vendor that provides features like meaningful use resource centers is important. These centers usually have information and guidance to assist health professionals and their employees in using their systems to adhere to meaningful use standards without dealing with penalties from the CMS.
5. Start focusing on time-saving features right away
One of the greatest EHR benefits is that they feature time-saving tools like patient portals. These enable patients to perform tasks like inputting their prescription and appointment requests that would have otherwise had to be done over the phone with office staff. Launching these tools will show firsthand the advantages of EHR systems and start moving practices and facilities in the right direction in terms of enhanced patient care and interoperability.