A Guide to Electronic Health Records

Navigating the Complexity of Electronic Health Records

Getting the most out of an Electronic Health Record (EHR) is complicated. Most organizations underestimate what the level of effort and change they are inviting into their daily operations, so we put together a comprehensive guide to help navigate the process and ensure that your EHR is the solution you need it to be.

Table of Contents

An Introduction to the Electronic Health Record (EHR)

Selecting the Right EHR for your Company

Avoiding Common EHR Implementation Mistakes

Optimize your EHR to Support Long-Term Goals

An Introduction to Electronic Health Records

An Introduction to Electronic Health Records

Electronic Health Records (EHR) have been a polarizing topic in healthcare communities since the beginning of the Meaningful Use era in 2009. While they brought with them a promise of advanced technology and faster workflows, many people have found EHRs to create as many problems as they solve. While some of this is due to false expectations, the majority is due to the selection of the wrong system or an implementation that didn’t take into consideration change management and workflow optimization.

Though we are almost a decade removed from the beginning of the EHR push, more questions than answers exist today. We put this guide together to help provide some of those missing answers and context for your EHR journey. Whether you are choosing your very first EHR or trying to optimize what you have, we want to provide you the information you need to solve your biggest EHR challenges.

Selecting the Right EHR Vendor

Selecting the Right EHR Vendor

We have seen our share of failed EHR projects, and some of them miss the mark at the very beginning of the process. Organizations do their best to outline their needs, but many times the process isn’t structured enough to align business needs with necessary system functionality.  To ensure the right system is selected, we recommend following a structured process of first identifying all of the needs across the organization and then comparing each of the vendors to those needs.

To start, keep in mind that EHR selections are not an IT project.  They are a clinical, financial, and business project with a heavy IT component.  With that in mind, we always recommend starting the process of finding a new EHR by engaging staff from across your organization.  By doing so, you’ll better identify all of the needs across your different programs and services, and you’ll also create a sense of buy-in that will be very important during this long and tedious process.

Once you have identified your goals and business needs, it’s time to start comparing those against the vendors on the market.  It’s important to start this phase with a formal Request for Proposal, and then work through a process of evaluations, demos, and discussions until you can identify the best vendors to fit your future goals.

The final, and potentially most important, piece of this process is creating a contract that will protect your investment for years to come.  All of your work to-date selecting the system should be leveraged in writing the support agreement and scope for your implementation.  This will ensure that both you and your selected vendor are aligned with expectations for your upcoming implementation.

If you have additional questions on selecting the right EHR vendor, you can find our whitepaper here that walks through Afia’s recommended process.  Be sure to take a look and follow each step!

EHR Implementation Planning

EHR Implementation Planning

Implementing an Electronic Health Record is one of the most complex projects a healthcare organization will take on. What makes it even more challenging is that many organizations don’t realize how hard it’s going to be until they are in the middle of the implementation. Unless there are project managers and leaders that have gone through the process before, it is incredibly difficult to plan adequately for a successful go-live, so make sure your team has the experience and preparation that you need.

One of the most difficult parts of an EHR implementation is the sheer volume of moving pieces at any given time.  Once you get into the implementation, your team could be working on clinical design, data migration, billing configuration, security setup, and testing all at once.  This can be extremely difficult to manage and track, because the reality is that most healthcare providers don’t have an excess of great project managers on staff.  Afia’s approach to implementations is to break the different areas down into what we call “tracks.”  This allows people to concentrate on smaller chunks of work, ensuring that each person can be accountable to their plan, and helps to make sure that nothing is missed along the way.

Once the team and plan are in place, it’s time for action!  As the project hits a frantic pace, it’s important that an EHR Governance Committee helps to maintain some balance.  They will work with the project team to keep priorities in the forefront, and mitigate issues and risks that come up over time.  They’ll also ensure that the organization maintains a commitment to the testing, training, and education that is truly critical for EHR adoption over time.

EHR Optimization

EHR Optimization

An EHR will never achieve the value it’s meant to unless healthcare providers leverage the power of the system and the data it creates.  The concept of EHR optimization is simple, but it’s also never-ending.  Optimizing your EHR can include fixing inefficiencies in user workflow, managing your forms/assessments to mirror regulatory requirements, and implementing new functionality over time.  But optimizing your EHR should also mean ensuring that the necessary data for your clinical, financial, and administrative initiatives are being captured in the system.  This is what takes an EHR from just a data capture tool to a powerful engine that will, in time, help you understand your business and make better decisions.  By focusing your efforts on each of these different areas, you will create increased value from your EHR and will hopefully also increase your staff satisfaction with your system over time.

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