EMR system implementations are complicated. Assessing readiness, selecting a software vendor, and carrying out the actual implementation in your facility are tasks that require much time and thought. Add on post-implementation system optimizations and things like Meaningful Use and the workload skyrockets for H.I.T. professionals. While there is not an easy way of transitioning from paper to electronic records, there are some best practices to keep in mind while going through the process.
1. Research your vendor– Epic, Siemens, NextGen, McKesson, MEDITECH, Allscripts, Cerner, etc. are all big names in the H.I.T. software game. All companies certainly offer EMR platforms that have a presence in major hospitals and physician practices across the country, but they also have major differences in their software functioning and capabilities that should be evaluated. When the time comes to select an EMR vendor, be sure to put the time in to figure out what system works best with your facility or practice or you could be in the position of having to go through a cumbersome software transition later.
2. Include all relevant personnel in the planning phases, especially nurses– Physicians are often thought of as the leaders of the EMR movement but it is a mistake to not include nursing staff in implementations. While it is crucial to include physicians, executive administrators, and technology professionals in the implementation, remember that nurses spend perhaps the most time as users of an EMR and therefore must be able to deliver input and participate in key conversations. In an article posted to HealthcareITNews, Rosemarie Nelson, principal of MGMA Consulting Group, stated, “A successful EMR implementation focuses on how the nurses can assist the physician in the integration of the EMR into clinical workflow. Too often, an EMR committee is created in a medical practice, and there’s no nursing representative. Bring in the nurses.”
3. Tailor your EMR system to your facility AND individuals– It cannot be stressed enough to select an EMR vendor that offers solutions that best meet your specific facility’s needs. However, it is important to also acknowledge differences in individual usage of EMRs and accommodate for that issue as much as possible. Take the time to discuss usage preferences with staff members and make adjustments to enhance the user experience. While some aspects of the platform must be standardized, capitalize on the opportunities your system offers to meet the needs of different departments and roles.
4. Train, train, train– Dedicating enough time and resources to training pre, during, and post-implementation may be the most important rule to live by with EMRs. While providing the necessary training may require a substantial budget and time commitment, it is worth it in the long run to ensure smooth system operations across the board. According to HealthIT.gov, “Providers and staff need to ensure that they receive the full amount of training hours available. Training should be conducted in an environment free of distractions. Providers and staff should not be conducting business while training.” HealthIT.gov also even recommends cutting back on patient volume during the go-live period to reduce staff anxiety surrounding new system usage and allow for enough attention to be paid in learning the software.
5. Embrace the capabilities of the EMR, but do not look to it to solve all workflow problems-EMRs offer a multitude of advantages over paper records and can improve the operations of a facility or practice in many ways. However, they should not be looked to as solutions to major workflow issues that existed prior to the transition. Separate efforts must be put forth to make any progress on lingering problems.
6. Seek external help and resources when needed– Many outlets are available to assist your practice or facility with EMR implementation. Remember that this is a massive undertaking and most healthcare organizations will need assistance at some point during the process. Luckily, there are many experts available to help with heavy workloads and specific subject matters through H.I.T. consulting companies (like Excite Health Partners) as well as government entities like Regional Extension Centers (RECs) and Health Information Exchanges (HIEs). In addition, utilizing extra help can allow you to keep your current workforce in tact without disrupting productivity and offers the advantage of added EMR expertise.
There are many factors that go into successful EMR implementations and issues will vary from facility to facility, but following the guidelines above can help to put healthcare organizations on the road to advanced technology and improved patient care.
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