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AMA Offers Guidance for EHR Vendor Selection in New Playbook

The AMA Digital Health Implementation Playbook advises providers on evaluating EHR vendors during the selection process.

AMA offers healthcare organizations tips on EHR vendor selection in a new playbook.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- A new Digital Health Implementation Playbook from AMA offers providers recommendations for navigating each phase of the health IT implementation process, including EHR vendor selection.

The guidance outlines key steps, best practices, and resources for providers and staff to streamline the adoption and scale of health IT solutions across care settings.

The playbook includes three parts. First, AMA provides recommendations on how to integrate digital tools into the clinical setting.

In part two, AMA outlines the implementation process in six steps. Step one prompts healthcare organizations to identify a need within their organization or practice where technology can support improvement.

Start by identifying concrete areas where you want to see your organization improve,” AMA recommends. “Brainstorm a list of your organization’s challenges—where you lose efficiency, where your staff encounter pain points, or where patients’ health or satisfaction suffers.”

READ MORE: Keys to Successful EHR Selection in a Value-Based Care System

In step two, the association advises healthcare organizations engage all staff and key stakeholders into four teams: core, leadership, advisory, and implementation.

“Having the right people involved upfront provides diverse perspectives,” wrote AMA.

Team members can help to anticipate potential barriers to implementation, facilitate clinician buy-in, and minimize disruptions to clinical workflows during implementation.

Step three requires team members to establish objectives.

“Once you’re aligned with your Core team on an overall vision for success, use this phase to set specific short-and long-term goals with measurable metrics and a process for tracking your progress to guide your team along the way,” recommended AMA.

READ MORE: Meritus Epic EHR Selection Came Down to Satisfaction

Identifying organizational goals before implementation provides more insight into which EHR vendor is the best match for a specific healthcare organizations patients, providers, environment, and needs.

“Align your goals to the quadruple aim of healthcare,” wrote AMA. “By focusing on health outcomes, improving the patient experience, and reducing cost and/or increasing provider satisfaction, you will inevitably impact the end user, care team or patient in a positive way.”

In step four, AMA offers tips on EHR selection.

“Evaluate possible vendors across key criteria that will enable your goals,” AMA suggested. “Go into the process with the intent of finding someone who will be a long-term partner and not just someone to execute a transaction. Select a shortlist of quality vendors by speaking with organizations or practices similar to yours.”

During EHR selection, AMA advised that healthcare organizations first research potential vendors and build a request for proposal (RFP) outlining the objectives identified during step three.

READ MORE: Most Providers Look to EHR Vendors to Address Opioid Management

Healthcare organizations can review RFP responses with key stakeholders from its core and advisory teams. During the EHR vendor selection process, healthcare organizations may also want to ask for case studies and referrals from potential options, schedule live demos with members of the core, advisory, and implementation team, and evaluate vendors across critical areas.

Factors that may weigh into the EHR vendor selection include security, EHR usability, customer service, and clinical validation. Healthcare organizations can also devise criteria to ensure EHR vendors meet key business and IT needs.

Healthcare organizations should ultimately decide on one or two vendors to present to leadership.

“Select a vendor who is worthy of a long-term partnership,” stated AMA.

Choosing an EHR vendor that will offer hands-on assistance throughout implementation and use will ensure providers and leadership have an expert resource to turn to during challenging situations. EHR vendors can also offer support throughout EHR implementation and go-live.

“Do your due diligence,” advised AMA. “Don’t rely on the sales pitch to provide all the information you need. Ask for case studies and referrals to support the pitch, and ask to speak with the product engineers and existing customers to gain a realistic picture of the process to integrate this solution into your organization.”

For small practices, AMA suggested talking to vendors who offer value-added services that cover project management, staff and patient training, patient engagement, and other services. Small practices may not have the resources on their own to address these needs.

On the other hand, large practices should anticipate scale from the beginning of the EHR implementation process.

“Discuss expectations about when and how you intend to scale your program,” suggested AMA. “If you are hoping to scale a program to a large number of patients, consider whether vendors have the resources and infrastructure to support a large-scale rollout within your expected time frame.”

After thoroughly vetting potential vendors to find the specific EHR offering best suited to a healthcare organization’s needs, staff can turn their attention to proposing the new system to leadership as part of step five.

“Share the problem you’ve identified, what success looks like and the metrics you will use to keep the team informed of their progress,” AMA stated. “You will also introduce your recommendation to solving the problem, which vendor is most suited for the job based on the initial evaluations and how partnering with them will deliver a positive ROI for the organization.”

Finally, leadership can create a contract that aligns the healthcare organization’s needs with its vendor partner in step six.

“Lay the groundwork for a successful long-term vendor relationship,” AMA wrote. “Think beyond financial considerations to align on expectations for how you’ll work together and communicate. Discuss the level of support or training you’ll expect from them as your partner and think creatively about where they can provide additional value or share the risk with your organization.”

Part three of the playbook offers healthcare organizations suggestions for implementing and scaling remote patient monitoring.

Implementing these steps and best practices can help to ensure healthcare organizations get the most out of their health IT investments.

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