According to Statista, 36% of physicians participating in the US survey have used EHR systems for five to nine years. Nevertheless, EHR implementation is not over yet for many medical organizations. The reason lies in the hurdles of the deployment process and the subsequent use. So how to ensure frictionless EHR implementation? We look into the matter.
EHR implementation: a viable strategy
Successful implementation of an EHR solution is more than just releasing an application. There are some preparatory and post-deployment steps required for the project’s success.
Step 1: Keeping Your Staff in the Know
EHR implementation becomes an ordeal if you keep employees blindfolded. It is better to have the CEO or other managers spell out the need to upgrade the EHR system during various meetings. It makes sense to bring up the problems that exist in the current system and emphasize their resolution in the new system. This way, doctors will perceive the changes better and gradually stop resisting them.
Step 2: Selecting a Vendor
At this point, a friendly price might not be a decisive point. EHR systems host sensitive data on patient health. Unfortunately, electronic health records often fall victim to hacking attacks. According to Healthcare Data Breach Report by Clinical Insight, hacking attacks on healthcare institutions affected 45 million people in 2021. Moreover, the attack frequency grew by 35 percent in comparison with 2020. Therefore, selecting a vendor, you should concentrate on several checkpoints, including vendor experience, approach and security practices.
1. Experience in the field
You can look through the candidates’ portfolios and choose the ones with rich expertise in EHR deployment or the implementation of other solutions for healthcare;
2. Approach to the matter
An experienced vendor should have a well-established process to tackle an EHR implementation project. They should be able to discuss the upcoming issues, however troubling, openly
3. Security practices
Data security is one of the most significant issues in the healthcare domain. Reputable vendors should take key security measures, including HIPAA compliance, hospital network security, and EHR data encryption. These measures help protect the solution from viruses and malicious actors.
As a rule, these three criteria help shorten the list of candidates. To choose the one, you can contact their customers (if available) and gather their feedback on the cooperation.
If the customers’ data is under NDA, you can choose the vendor offering the most comprehensive security measures.
Step 3: Selecting an EHR Launch Strategy
There are two strategies for implementing an EHR – the big-bang approach and the incremental, or phased approach.
In the first case, the entire system is launched at once, and users start working following the dive-and-swim principle. At first sight, this approach looks appealing: your medical staff doesn’t need to spend extra time learning basic workflows and functions.
However, big-bang might be challenging. Suitable for clinicians with intermediate and advanced computer skills, it can turn complicated for less experienced computer users. Insufficient knowledge can result in errors and unnecessary configurations , disrupting the work of other clinicians in the facility. Besides, fixing those changes can take time.
As for the incremental approach, the EHR system features are deployed gradually. Some providers choose to launch an EHR system in one department and then roll it out across the facility. With an incremental approach, users have time to study each workflow and feature set separately. Thus, they can master their daily EHR-related activities with no rush.
Step 4: Setting Up a Multi-faceted Team
A high-quality EHR system is not only about good programmers. Tech experts usually have limited knowledge of the industry specifics. Therefore, the EHR system’s success requires doctors’ help. They can advise on adding up-to-date workflows or fixing usability issues timely.
But how to select doctors for such a task? It does not make sense to attract every available doctor. It is reasonable to test your doctors’ computer literacy and skills. You can use simple tests available online. This effort allows you to find super users or champions with advanced computer skills who can communicate with programmers and quickly master the intricacies of working with the system.
Step 5: Training
Training is a vital part of a successful EHR implementation project. Effective training programs include:
- Champions supporting the system and program. Highly skilled clinicians can also work as mentors for less proficient computer users.
- Clear communication channels among all project participants.
- Role-based learning. Under this method, EHR users study the functions they need for their daily work. This method helps reduce the learning curve and the burnout rate associated with introducing a new EHR.
Step 6: Drafting Further Improvements
EHR is a dynamic system that should adjust to users’ needs. Hence, you need to prepare for regular system optimization. As a rule, this effort covers updating the EHR system features, introducing new necessary integrations, and discarding outdated functions.
Besides, you should monitor the quality of the data your EHR stores. Errors are common in EHRs. The most serious can negatively affect patient health – errors in the diagnosis, prescribed medications, or dosage. Participation of clinicians in EHR implementation helps reduce the frequency of such cases. Still, caution is required.
Moreover, patient health is not a stable parameter either. The health status may change with time — new “weak spots” or chronic diseases may appear. Besides, a patient may simply move to another state or shift providers. Such changes also need to be reflected in the EHR system. Therefore, you should review and clean your EHR data regularly. You can do it independently or hire a professional data quality assurance team.
Successful EHR implementation is not an easy task, but with a good strategy, it is possible. The elements of an effective plan include:
- Informing employees of the necessity to change the EHR system
- Choosing a vendor
- Choosing a suitable EHR deployment approach
- Involving medical workers in various EHR implementation processes, from development to training and EHR system usability testing
- Ensuring an effective training system
- Ensuring regular system optimization and data cleaning, either independent or outsourced
This strategy allows you to control all development and implementation processes and resolve emerging difficulties in due time.