Clear assessment of business goals key to successful EHR system change

There are times when an electronic health record system just does not cut it when it comes to performing as part of a business. Whether a certain piece of software does not satisfy a business's workflow needs or the vendor has not sought certification for its technology from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, transitioning to a new EHR system is never an ideal situation.

However, given the CMS's insistence on verified software, an up-to-date and functioning EHR system is a necessity in today's health care world. Any business that finds itself on the precipice of switching to a new piece of software must take pains to ensure that its workflows continue as uninterrupted as possible. The only way to accomplish that is through comprehensive planning and clear business aims. 

Establish specific goals
While meaningful use requirements necessitate an EHR system be used as an everyday tool in medical workplaces, practices and providers should also strive to incorporate the technology holistically into their day-to-day operations. With this in mind, Medical Economics recommended that businesses either considering or in the process of switching to a new EHR system demarcate clear expectations for what they want their new software to achieve.

These expectations may be based on a larger schedule aligned with long-term business goals. If a practice seeks to expand its patient base within 18 months, for example, what role would it like its new EHR system to play in that expansion? Benchmarks relating to patient wait times, physician satisfaction and fewer data entry errors can all contribute to an overall sense of control during a turbulent time.

With finite metrics to track, businesses can not only choose an EHR system that better achieves these goals, but they can also evaluate how far along these projects are at various points after implementation.

Listen to various staff members
Nearly everybody in the health care industry has an opinion on the usefulness of EHR systems, and it is the rare medical professional who is afraid to share his or her views. Because a new EHR system is sure to impact practices and providers at almost every level of the workplace, EHRIntelligence explained that it can be valuable for executives to gauge their entire organizations' opinions on what they want in an EHR system.

Practices and hospitals require physicians, nurses, other clinicians and administrators to run effectively, and each of these professions will interact with an EHR system in markedly different ways. It is also safe to assume that they have different wants and needs from the software – physicians may focus on the ability of an EHR system to improve patient outcomes, while nurses and other administrators may be more focused on the efficiency of data entry processes and the overall portability of the software. 

While no EHR system can guarantee that it will solve every health care professional's problems, listening to employees' concerns may make them more optimistic about the change to a new piece of software.

Learn from past mistakes
If EHR systems were perfect, no business would have to make the change to a new one, but unfortunately many vendors release products without the necessary amount of polish to function as smoothly as possible. Practices and providers in search of a new EHR system should keep in mind the flaws of their old system that drove them to switch to an updated version.

Some executives may have grown tired of inefficient data entry systems that disrupted workflows too much, while others seek greater interoperability with wider health information exchanges. The key is for businesses to identify which areas they would like to improve in, and to choose an EHR system that satisfies those needs.