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Entering into a relationship with an electronic health records vendor is like entering into a marriage. You need to select a partner with whom you can get along and trust, communicate openly, and who will have your back when times get tough.
Derek Kosiorek, CPEHR, CPHIT
Entering into a relationship with an electronic health records (EHR) vendor is like entering into a marriage. You need to select a partner with whom you can get along and trust, communicate openly, and who will have your back when times get tough. You want a partner who will share your long-term interests.
Ending a marriage can be painful, but is it possible that separating from an EHR vendor can be just as bad?
There are many reasons to switch EHR vendors. Mergers or acquisitions often require reduced support of existing software. A practice’s growth can render a product unusable. Organizational relationships with a new group or hospital may make a change beneficial. Often the main reason why practices change systems is because the current software is too difficult or impractical to use.
Technology is nothing more than a tool to manage information. If the tool doesn’t do its job, it shouldn’t be used. Many practices are beginning the process of changing EHR systems, and every one of them wants the next system to be better than the one they currently have.
You may think installing an EHR the second time will be tough. Believe it or not, it won’t be. Your staff is now used to the changes that go with EHR, so that hurdle has already been overcome.
Here are some steps that can go a long way to ensure a smooth and successful second EHR implementation.
Set some goals
Many groups go into an EHR implementation without having clear expectations for what the EHR will do for them. If you were building a house, you wouldn’t start just throwing bricks on the ground and hoping a functional house is the result. So why do it for software that may cost just as much as a house?
Instead, set specific goals for what you want to be happening with your software in the coming 12 to 18 months. Do you want reduced patient wait times? Do you want improved physician satisfaction? How about fewer errors? It may even be that you want staff and patients complaining less. The point is to set measurable goals, so you can revisit them and determine success after the project is finished.
What could be improved from the last install? Did your staff receive enough training? Were the right computers and equipment purchased? Were the alerts set to trigger at the right times and frequency?
Remember, it is as important to keep in mind what went right as remembering what went wrong. What functionalities must you keep in the next generation of your EHR?
By its nature, technology is an industry that evolves quickly. When looking at making major changes to your practice, it’s important to consider the new ways of doing things.
The cloud is offering benefits that were inconceivable just a few years ago. Do your doctors or nurses want touchscreen tablets to carry around the office? It’s possible now.
What method of remote access will you need to gain access to the system? Do the research, and find the most efficient methods.
Portals: your new front door
Whatever system you select, make sure that you plan to open your Internet portal for the patients to access EHR information.
There are many reasons to do this, but it’s easy to predict that not having a portal will be a detriment to your practice in the coming years. If you don’t have one, you can be sure your competitors will.
The author is a principal consultant for MGMA Health Care Consulting Group. Send your practice management questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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