Every industry faces its own set of challenges when it comes implementing ERP software. Perhaps the most unique and compelling implementation concerns are found in the healthcare industry, where the introduction of new software can mean each patient’s well-being is, in at least some way, at the mercy of an electronic database.

By 2014, the U.S. Government will require all physicians and hospitals to use electronic health record (EHR) systems for all their patients. This is part of the new HITECH Act instituted by the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (HIT).

The transition from paper records to a fully electronic database is not easy for any organization. Just like ERP implementations, adopting a new EHR system requires integration, customization, contingency planning and careful attention to organizational change management.

Below are four challenges presented by EHR systems, each of which can be overcome by acknowledging the lessons learned from large-scale implementations in other industries:

  1. As with ERP software, disparate EHR systems across locations and departments must be properly integrated in order to maintain “one version of truth” across all records. Precision is especially important in healthcare since doctors are relied upon to prescribe the right treatment and medication. A slight variation in dosage can be hazardous to a patient.
  2. Some doctors complain that EHR systems are difficult to use. Mastering a new system can be so time-consuming that doctors are sometimes forced to serve fewer patients. An organizational change management plan that incorporates extensive end-user training can mitigate this issue and satisfy all potential stakeholders.
  3. EHR systems are just as vulnerable to IT failure as any ERP system. Organizations should ensure that data is backed-up and all departments are ready to revert to paper records if necessary. A phased rollout is another preventative measure that can help work out glitches before the entire organization is faced with reduced productivity.
  4. Since every patient has unique needs, EHR systems may need a significant amount of customization. Before deciding which processes to customize, organizations should engage in business process reengineering and optimize inefficient processes before customizing software to accommodate those inefficiencies.

Despite the risks presented by poorly implemented EHR systems, the potential benefits should not be ignored. Electronic health records can make patients’ medical histories more easily accessible and can reduce errors related to disorganized paperwork and undecipherable handwriting. Realizing these benefits, however, requires the same determination that drives ERP success in other industries. The healthcare industry is unique but the basic principles of implementation still apply.

Learn more about overcoming common ERP implementation challenges by downloading Chapter Eight of An Expert’s Guide to ERP Success.

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