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Successfully replace your EHR technology with careful preparation

Between 2010 and 2012, electronic health record replacement systems has grown over 50% with 2013 peaking at nearly 75%. The three year study published by Software Advice, also cites the major reason for replacement is due to dissatisfaction. If you are considering adopting or replacing your EHR platform, preparation is vital. Follow this expert advice to increase better patient experiences without hindering practice performance.


Do identify workflow redesign areas and processes

Develop an itemized list of functional areas that will be affected by the electronic health record implementation to include initial patient contact, check-ins, scheduling, referral handling, prescriptions, lab work and more. Fully detail all areas and staffing at each touch point even if it seems minor.

Do invest in a quality system with focused support

In many cases, prepare for EHR adoption by getting the right kinds of workstations and display hardware in place before starting to use these kinds of digital records systems. With all components in place before use, you can better identify any deficiencies or potential blocks to productivity.

Do plan for short and long-term costs with alternate cash flow funding options

Although the government can provide some relief for providers using electronic health records under the HITECH incentive program, practices will need to be financially prepared for this kind of technology, which can cost up to $70,000 per provider, according to government estimates. Develop a spreadsheet and compare systems side by side to determine how much of an investment will be required - both now and in the future.

Do hire or designate the right team mix

Your team should include at least one person from each functional area, both clinical and non-clinical with a team lead coordinating and managing the project. Each individual on the team will contribute key insights as to how their area will be impacted by a new or replacement EHR transition. If you are already short-staffed, the process will be further strained with the task of implementing new digital resources. Over time, additional or restructuring of existing resources should help a practice work more efficiently, but at the beginning, a few extra hands on deck may be needed to maintain productivity.

Do identify existing problems, challenges and issues

One way to more effectively implement EHR technology is to drill down for workflow bottlenecks that exist in your current model. These can be as minor as pick up points or how patients are routed through your system. Now is the time to address and improve processes to achieve after implementation effectiveness.


Do not wait to plan for transitioning to EHR technology

Begin detailed planning with milestone target dates as soon as you create the decision to invest in this technology. Waiting can put a medical business between a rock and a hard place if adequate resources are not on hand as the project ramps up. Lack of planning on the front end is a major reason for dissatisfaction.

Do not overlook setting and delegating critical timelines to designated individuals

As mentioned earlier, you want to have a specific implementation team and point people for training or other necessities. If you do not, you run the risk of a major after implementation breakdown that will negatively affect you, your staff, and patients.

Do not undermine the IT department

Some believe that EHR implementation is simply an IT function. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The technology development continues to become more sophisticated and rapidly deployable in a landscape that is progressing towards interoperability versus simply cobbling disparate systems together. Your ultimate success and liability can hinge upon the level and quality of your IT professional’s ability to understand how to the technology affects all parties. Hire or contract with a higher skilled individual who is accountable, can turn technical jargon into layperson language, and can produce solutions to problems as or before they occur.

Do not ignore possible support sources

Some practices look for additional investor relationships to provide fundamental support for modernizations like these. Government offices and regional extension centers can also help provide more information on how to plan and how to anticipate challenges with these technologies.

Do not neglect your finances

Although electronic health records and electronic medical records are effective in promoting efficient clinical work when implemented properly, they often do not address some of the issues around the financial administration of a doctor’s office. It’s a good idea to look for specific medical billing and coding technologies and or professionals that can help keep you sustainable as you continue to deliver high quality care to your patients.

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With prudent foresight and proper planning in implementing or replacing your EMR technology, you can avoid many of the pitfalls that others have encountered such as poorly designed electronic processes, systems that are preselected for you and not in sync with your specialty or environment, or training and meaningful use attestation reporting gaps. Technology is only as good as the support behind it so confirm the long-term viability of your selected choices with demonstrable successful return on investment.

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Sue (Sunni) PattersonPresident/CEO

Sue (Sunni) Patterson started in the healthcare industry as a senior medical claims processor with a major insurance payer. Sunni is President of RMK Holdings Inc., a healthcare revenue cycle management services firm. Key specialization areas in...

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