What is the key to successful EHR implementation?

What is the key to successful EHR implementation?

Physicians and their patients can significantly benefit from electronic health records. However, practices will only see these advantages, such as enhanced patient engagement, streamlined workflows and reduced medical errors, if providers are implementing them correctly. If they are not properly prepared for the process or go about it incorrectly, the entire staff will likely experience serious setbacks that inhibit both productivity and patient care. This is why it is essential that physicians are effectively planning and managing EHR implementation projects.

Study identifies key to successful EHR implementation
While many practices are intimidated by the implementation process, any staff is capable of efficiently and successfully completing it. EHR adoption does take a lot of effort and preparation, but as long as providers take note of the important steps before implementation, they will increase the chances that they will experience a smooth transition. What are these steps?

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, looked at how successful practices implemented their EHR systems. The study, published in the American Journal of Managed Care, included a survey of health care professionals at seven Veterans Affairs hospitals in the U.S. The participants were asked about their experiences implementing their systems. 

The findings highlighted the fact that planning and change management are crucial to a successful process. Without the proper planning, the researchers found that providers had a bad experience that resulted in multiple obstacles for their staff. 

Those who reported a smooth and effective transition from paper-based procedures to EHRs completed five tasks. These include providing their staff with sufficient training, establishing strong management teams, anticipating workflow changes, creating strict project timelines and ensuring that the right hardware was available to physicians.

Implementation projects that fell apart, on the other hand, performed none of these essential tasks. These staffs noted that they started to observe problems popping up at the beginning of implementation and that they became increasingly frequent as the process went on. This underscores the importance of effective preparation, as failure to do so can have lasting negative effects. 

Thinking of EHRs differently
The researchers explained that one of the problems may be that physicians are thinking about the switch to EHR systems simply as a process that will cause changes, such as enhanced daily workflows, to their jobs. However, providers need to see EHR implementation as something that will have significant impacts on their patients too. In fact, the research showed that poor implementation had the potential to have negative effects on patient care. 

However, if physicians simply take the time to make sure their staffs are ready for implementation and have the proper support to ensure that everything runs smoothly, the benefits of EHRs can be great for both providers and their patients. If health professionals consider how their new systems are going to affect their practices and patients, they will understand how vital planning and management are to the process and ultimately prevent problems. 

They should also keep in mind that aspects like staff responsibilities, communication with patients and procedures like billing will likely change. Therefore, these factors should be considered when the implementation process is being planned out. With such important aspects at stake throughout the process, it is essential that providers are committed to ensuring that everything is planned well before the transition. 

The study has shown that an EHR project that is carefully prepared and thought out can make patient care more effective and of high quality. The difference between the practices that failed and succeeded was their planning efforts. As EHR adoption continues to grow across the country, physicians should not take these findings lightly and take the proper preparation steps.