Five Steps to Replacing or Upgrading Your EHR
If your ENT clinic or practice needs to change your electronic health records system (EHR), there are several important considerations before making a switch. The goal for an ENT EHR platform is described as ‘meaningful use.’ This means that accurate and timely information about patients can be available instantly across the institution.
Create the Perfect Team
When selecting persons to be a part of the planning process, ability and critical thinking skills are more important than titles. Every department needs to be represented. Disregarding the advice of the reception and appointment team might doom a plan to failure from the start.
Team leaders skilled and experienced in group dynamics can keep groups moving forward to meet deadlines while minimizing friction and disagreements.
Study, Anticipate and Plan
First, one committee needs to look dispassionately at the current EHR system. What are its failures and what are its strengths? If there is part of the current system that works well, it will be important to maintain that function.
The planning group should be able to produce a document that is a virtual blueprint of the institution’s ideal EHR system. Knowing exactly what is desired and required before meeting with EHR vendors will give the practice a big decision-making advantage.
Decide on the Budget
Once the group is satisfied that they have identified all the parameters, they need to meet with administrators, partners and accountants to decide the EHR replacement or redesign budget. This group should be able to determine a cost/benefit analysis of increased functionality and anticipated efficiencies. Will the new system save employee time? Will it help reduce errors? All these savings and costs should be balanced.
Not all of these savings are readily apparent. Increased patient safety due to better sharing of medical history, test results and allergies, for instance, can gain a big financial savings as well as prevent poor patient outcomes. Don’t forget that the U.S. government is giving practitioners incentive funds to use EHR systems that are compatible with Medicare and Medicaid.
Research EHR Vendors
The EHR system must be certified using U.S. government guidelines. This is probably easier to achieve with an off-the-shelf system. Look at track records, experience, ease of use and other factors beside the cost. If a system seems promising, speak to as many current users as possible for feedback about their experiences, timely completions, training requirements, conversion times and customer service.
Train, Explain and Expect the Unexpected
Once you choose a system, prepare for the switch. Introductions to the new system should precede specific training. After the conversion, it probably is a good idea to appoint a small team as EHR ‘firefighters’ to respond immediately when problems arise in the first weeks of implementation. Great training means great reception.
The U.S. government site at HealthIT.gov has many free online resources for EHR conversions, including a paper on unintended consequences. Use these and any other resources to plan a successful change to a better system.