Planning and procedures for making an EHR switch

Given the rush by health systems and practices toward meaningful use-certified electronic health record technology just two or three years ago – in an attempt primarily to scoop up some federal incentive cash for doing so — is it really any surprise that so many organizations are now switching to different systems? Of course not; but in light of new research released by KLAS, the findings suggest that more than 25 percent of ambulatory care providers are pulling the plug on their current system and looking for a replacement EHR. They’re doing so primarily to better meet their practices’ needs, as well as to achieve greater integration with neighboring systems, improve technical functionality and increase return on investment.

Unfortunately, for many practices, given the enormity of the initial investment of their forays into the world of electronic health records, they currently do not have the financial or organizational support to make the switch. However, that’s not stopping all organizations from doing so in the ambulatory space, and the competition remains strong for many vendors, such as athenahealth, Allscripts, Greenway and Practice Fusion.

But, let’s get back to the bigger issue at hand and the reason for all of the change. Meaningful use drove widespread adoption of the technology, as was designed, creating a feeding frenzy for the software. As organizations scrambled to implement the solutions, in many cases the technology selected might not have fit so well with a practice, but this may have been overlooked initially in exchange for speed.

So here we sit, a couple years in and in some cases the technology is not fitting the needs of those using it, or so has been reported. For those looking to replace an EHR, for the reasons named by KLAS and others, here’s a bit of simple advice, supplied by athenahealth, that is pretty straight forward and should be considered by all:

• Be cautious of vendors with high up-front costs and be aware that free services can also be a risky decision
• Work with a vendor who can share examples of successful conversions from traditional software providers.
• Be aware of the best data transfer options.

All of that said, when dealing with a transition, especially for a second time — whether faced by a smaller medical practice or at a large healthcare facility like a hospital or skilled nursing care center — the implementation of an EHR is never a small task. Exacerbating the complexity of the switch to a second system is a lack of planning, which can lead to frustration amongst staff, in the very least, with what might seem a never ending health IT transition. Needless to say, any change, especially one of such magnitude should come with a plan.

A solid first step may be a planning and analysis plan that is devised to perform a detailed review of the facility in question’s daily operations. This process can uncover vital data, such as operational pain points, understanding of a health system’s workflow and any gaps that need to be addressed in a current software solution. Once this is done, organizational leaders are better able to develop a plan to fit the business’ needs and direct the facility toward improved productivity and efficiency in the direction of the right EHR software.

With these steps, perhaps there’s a chance that the move to a new system will be easier than the go-around. There is a possibly, of course, that an intense evaluation of current processes, procedures and plans might determine that a new system is not necessarily needed. Rather, perhaps nothing more is need than better processes, procedures and plans so as to make the best of a currently installed system. Whichever the case may be, having a partner that is adept at system and workflow analysis and plan creation will make a world of difference as far as efficiency.

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