Thought Leadership

Helping AWARE Become EHR-Ready Through a Game Changing Effort

Before partnering with Afia, AWARE was operating primarily on a paper-based medical record system and did not have a secure and efficient IT infrastructure in place.

A non-profit behavioral health organization AWARE, Inc. began due diligence in selecting an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system for its 102 locations and 940+ staff members to utilize.

Overcoming Obstacles

When AWARE contracted Afia to assist in the EHR selection and implementation process, it became clear immediately that there were many challenges and obstacles that would need to be overcome for the entire EHR project to be a successful one.

The biggest hurdle may have been the fact that AWARE would be moving away from a primarily paper-based medical record system – which meant that the organization didn’t have the technology systems already in place to support an EHR system.

Not unlike other organizations with a paper based system, medical providers were faxing and using a courier service to transport patient charts to other locations across the state. Although AWARE was very careful with client data, securing paper documents is difficult to deal with in the best of circumstances.

Along with the paper-based medical record system AWARE was utilizing, there were significant challenges with AWARE’s document management system. For example, when the organization needed to track developmentally disabled individuals and the varying services they received, there was no standardized process in place. Staff members were utilizing Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and only one or two employees had access to manage them. The complicated process included no way of tracking or exporting system data, no method to identify areas of weakness, and did not support productivity reports to drive improvement. Not only was this method found to be unproductive for the organization, but it became very problematic during audits as it was discovered there were multiple versions of documents and forms across all site locations.

Another challenge was the fact that AWARE’s 102 site locations are located in geographically diverse areas in the state of Montana. How would all of the sites, EHR processes, training and document management systems be brought together successfully for a seamless roll out?

Goal Setting

AWARE had specific goals in mind for the implementation of their new EHR system, with the critical goal of achieving go live within 12 months.

It’s important to note that often, EHR vendors will make promises in regards to go live dates, but it’s a rarity that these promises come to fruition. Afia has been 100% successful in meeting go live dates when involved in the EHR selection process.

In addition to the 12 month go live date, AWARE needed to be assured that the EHR system would be efficient and fast, while supporting the organization’s staff as they deliver client services.

From the onset, it was clear that AWARE needed a scalable and secure IT infrastructure which could easily be managed by the organization’s lean internal IT staff. Finally, the effective and knowledgeable EHR training of all AWARE staff would need to be coordinated by Afia to ensure a seamless transition at go live.

Selecting Afia to Manage the Project

It was clear from AWARE COO Jeff Folsom that their organization wouldn’t have been able to meet their deadlines and goals without Afia’s help. “We had gone through the EMR bidding process several years back, and it quickly became clear that we didn’t have the in-house expertise to manage the project. We asked others in our industry for recommendations and Afia’s name came up several times. We’ve been very satisfied with Afia’s excellent job management – specifically helping us to clarify and define what it was WE really needed as an organization.

After we selected an EHR, the vendor told us we didn’t need Afia and that it would be a redundant expense. However, we have found that hiring Afia was the best decision we ever made and the vendor couldn’t have been more wrong.”

A New Infrastructure

When Afia arrived on-site to access the IT infrastructure at AWARE, it was evident AWARE would benefit from extensive system upgrades.

With Afia’s expertise and knowledge in the health information technology space, email and print servers were centralized and servers to support the EHR system were deployed to allow the EHR system to operate smoothly and efficiently.

Due to centralizing client desktops into a secure remote desktop solution, the IT administrative overhead of managing over 1,000 client desktop computers was minimized to the management of just over a dozen host servers.

The streamlining of AWARE’s IT infrastructure was particularly critical since AWARE operates a very lean IT department.

On-Time Go Live & Training

The EHR system was able to go live in 12 months with Afia’s help. After the EHR go live date, AWARE quickly discovered that eliminating the previously used paper document system provided other benefits to the organization. AWARE Systems Administrator Jason McDonald observed, “The revelations that our EHR system has provided [in regards to document management] within six months is amazing. The system is doing exactly what we needed it to.”

By having staff input data into the EHR system, processes are easier and streamlined, resulting in a centralized document management system. Treatment plans, progress notes and e-prescribing are all housed within the system. Staff and physicians are able to securely login regardless of where they are physically located, as long as they have an internet connection.

Afia was also able to conduct a computer literacy class for AWARE staff, as some employees were found to benefit from extended computer skills courses. Afia utilized training videos and electronic quizzes which quickly brought the AWARE employees up to speed and ready to use the new EHR system at its fullest potential.

All Thought Leadership