While implementing a modern EHR system can have many benefits, try not to rush into this initiative. Instead, take the time to understand the full process of implementing EHR software so you can develop a realistic project plan.

Today, we’re sharing a quick checklist to follow when you’re ready to get started.

What Is an EHR Implementation?​

As healthcare offices around the country invest in digital transformations, the use of electronic health records (EHR) continues to grow. To date, around 90% of office-based physicians use some type of EHR system.

In short, this is a virtual version of a patient’s paper chart. By storing these files online, offices can help ensure patient privacy, as well as easier, real-time access for authorized users. Compared to paper-based filing, an EHR platform is safer, more effective, and more timely.

If your office is planning to digitize its record-keeping process, it’s natural to be excited about the possibilities. Yet, it’s important to approach this process with care and caution. Here is a basic roadmap to follow.

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1. Planning and Selection Phase: Choose an EHR System​

Your first step is to choose the right EHR system for your office’s needs. As you consider the benefits of EHR software, remember to keep your expectations realistic. Implementations often fail because leaders didn’t fully understand key parts of their requirements, such as:

• Their organization’s data needs
• The effort required to identify and implement an EHR system
• The costs involved in EHR implementation

In general, there are two primary types of EHR systems to consider. These include:

• Cloud-based EHRs
• Locally-hosted EHRs

Cloud-Based vs. Locally-Hosted EHR Systems

A cloud-based EHR provides scalable, on-demand access to IT services via a designated cloud provider. With this system, you can reduce your on-site hardware/software costs, lower your maintenance expenses, and provide higher levels of service than your in-house IT team can manage alone. However, cloud-based enterprise software systems can present issues with data security, access, and control.

A locally-hosted EHR allows you to house your software and data on server locations at your in-house location. With this ERP system, you can maintain total control of your patients’ data, without allowing access to an outside organization. It also requires fewer upgrades to your existing internet connection.

However, locally-hosted platforms also put the issue of data security on your team. This might require investing in hardware to ensure your servers are physically secure, as well as software for routine data backups.

The key steps to choosing the right EHR system include:

• Analyze your resources to make an informed decision on whether to pursue EHR
• Determine the specific needs of your practice
• Determine what you need the new EHR system to do
• Review and select an EHR software provider
• Analyze your financial capabilities
• Negotiate the contract terms and initiate the implementation

2. Pre-Implementation Phase

Before you begin the hands-on implementation work, a pre-implementation phase is necessary. During this time, you can:

• Create a project plan
• Establish a governance process
• Develop your project team
• Communicate with your workforce and patients
• Perform business process re-engineering to redesign workflows
• Provide education and training to staff members

The governance process you establish will help you ensure your EHR system is implemented effectively. It also lays the groundwork for how your practice will manage key issues, including data security.

3. Implementation Phase

As you officially launch your EHR implementation, the process will be unique to your practice. There might be important steps that you need to add or take away, but the general flow is as follows:

• Customize the EHR system to meet the needs of your practice
• Create and follow an organizational change management (OCM) process
• Create a plan for backloading patient medical histories during the transition
• Estimate how much time your staff will need to learn the new system

As this list reveals, it’s important to prioritize the “people” side of your EHR project just as much as the “technical” side of it. A robust OCM strategy helps ensure that your team members feel updated about the system, and confident in how to use it. If any questions arise, make sure you can promptly answer them and keep your workforce in the loop to avoid resistance.

4. Optimization Phase

Once your EHR system is up and running, it’s time to optimize operations. Evaluate how the implementation went, and which steps you need to improve upon for the future.

Key questions to ask during this phase include:

• Did the implementation go smoothly and successfully?
• Did everyone in your workforce participate and feel included?
• What were the strong points of the project? What about the weak points?
• Did the implementation go as originally planned?
• How did the ongoing project work affect day-to-day workflows?

As you review these important points, you’ll uncover potential areas for improvement. In addition to optimizing how your practice approaches new projects in the future, you can also use these lessons to make sure your EHR system stays up-to-date.

Just like internal processes, technology can always be improved. Take a continuous optimization approach to the effort and get everyone involved. As time goes by, gather feedback on the system from physicians, patients, and other EHR users and use those insights to make improvements.

A Roadmap for Implementing EHR

As you can see, the process of implementing EHR doesn’t simply mean going from Point A to Point B. There are multiple, incremental phases you’ll need to complete, and each one feeds into the next.

By taking a focused, careful approach, you can avoid many of the roadblocks that lead to ERP failures. Prioritize planning, set realistic expectations, and involve your workforce through OCM, training, and software optimization.

Is your healthcare practice considering making the switch to EHR? If so, contact an ERP software consultant below for a free consultation.

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