Preparing Your Practice for an Electronic Health Record

A successful Electronic Health Record (EHR) implementation hinges upon choosing the right system for your practice. Equally important is how you approach the process of actually implementing the EHR in your practice. This article will provide recommendations based on knowledge attained from hundreds of successful EHR implementations.

Form a Core Team of Key Office Staff and Decision Makers

Create a team of key office personnel that have the drive and willingness to forge into this new territory. Typically these individuals are the natural leaders among your staff and people that others will follow as they lead your clinic in this endeavor. Look for leaders in the various departments and groups within your office – billing, reception, office manager, nurse, physician – all individuals that will champion the cause. Your core team must also have authorization to make decision regarding how the clinic is going to use the EHR. They also have more buy in and willingness to make the transition successful if they have a part in the decision making process and agree on the requirements for success. If you can have a dedicated project manager that works for your clinic and in concert with the EHR’s project manager, you will be ahead of the game.

Set Expectations with all Staff

Setting the right expectations and tone for this transition is an extremely important part of the success of your implementation. Your staff must know what their tasks are, expected results and completion within an expected timeframe. Your team will be excited about this if the Core Team is excited and will be more apt to embrace the training, practice, workflow and new technology.

Work with the Project Manager from the EHR Vendor

Your EHR Project Managers job is to guide you and your clinic through a successful implementation. This is accomplished through communication, workflow assessments, skill assessments, organizational and project planning and change management. The Project Manager will work with you to schedule all tasks, assign individuals or teams to complete those tasks, schedule all installations, training, data conversions, go-live support and follow-on training after Go Live. Your Implementation Project Manager is the guiding force responsible for overseeing the entire implementation process from start to completion.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Through-out the implementation cycle, your core team will have many decisions to make and those decisions are best discussed with your Project Manager. Do you want to convert your patient information from your former EMR to your new system? How do you want the daily patient workflow to be handled? What about billing? What Clearinghouse will you use? Does your EHR Vendor offer hardware and installation services? Do you have an IT professional on staff or one that you contract with to perform IT services for your clinic? How do you want to handle training – there are many options and you will want to select the combination of blended learning solutions that best suits your clinic and your staff.

Drive to meet the dates and goals on the project plan

Your Implementation Project Manager will work closely with the lead core team member or dedicated clinic project manager to drive the tasks, goals and deadlines from early planning stages to Go Live and beyond. It is important to really look at a calendar and take into consideration the timing of the project’s activities. Is flu season extremely busy for your clinic – that’s probably not a realistic nor wise choice of time to be working on this project. Depending on your specialty and geographic location, some time frames will be better than others. Realize that this project takes time to complete and implementing during any slow times of the year will ease the transition on you and your team.

Train, Train, Train and Practice, Practice, Practice

Learning to use your new EHR effectively is one of the most critical pieces to a successful implementation. You will be seeing patients and have made this investment to help you improve the quality of care – don’t skimp on training and practice. Go ahead and make that investment in time to train and really learn the system and give your staff the time to train and practice as well. Becoming comfortable enough in your EHR system to handle an increased patient load while not increasing the time spent to process those patient charts and claims is only going to come through proper training and then practicing until it is second nature. It really isn’t that daunting of a task as training over a span of time will ensure you and your team are ready to see that first patient with confidence.

Go Live – You Made It! Invest in Onsite Go Live Training Support

Regardless of what your EHR Vendor tells you, invest in onsite training support during your Go Live week. You’ve invested the time and money in this new system and in your staff and everyone is trained and prepared…….and then you open your doors and see that first patient, and the next, and the next and it is wise to have a training specialist onsite with you and your staff as they come upon those questions that only happen when you are seeing patients and using your new system. Proper preparation and training will keep the patients flowing and onsite training support during those first few days on the system when real life questions and situations present themselves.

Follow-On Training Post Go Live

Your team has settled into a comfortable pace of seeing more patients, the system is running smoothly and you are now wanting to learn more, run reports, build templates, run some rules, learn more about what this powerful new system can do for your practice. It’s time for some workflow optimization analysis and training typically around 45-60 days after Go Live week. You and your team will begin to ask more in-depth questions and will be ready to go to the next level. Work with your Implementation project manager to schedule online training sessions specific to a topic or area that needs attention or perhaps schedule onsite Advanced Workflow Optimization Consulting where a highly trained and specialized Workflow Consultant spends time in your clinic with your staff assessing workflow and providing recommendations and education to improve the efficiencies of your office.

You’ve made a significant investment in your practice, in your staff and in your future. A well planned out and executed implementation provides a solid foundation to your continued success. Shoring up this foundation with workflow optimization consulting and training is key to ensuring meaningful use of your new EHR system in your practice.