- Implementing an electronic health records system is no easy task. Between finding a product that meets your needs, ensuring that it’s within your budget, securing the cooperation and approval of your staff, scheduling training, and those first rocky days after go-live, your implementation team will have earned a nice, long vacation. But the EHR adoption process isn’t limited to connecting all the wires and flicking the switch. Adoption is an ongoing process, and a critical piece of the puzzle is optimizing your EHR for the specific needs of your clinical staff and business objectives. Here are five considerations to keep in mind as you enter phase two of EHR adoption: tweaking and adjusting your system to get the most out of your investment.
Define your practice’s goals
What do your physicians, nurses, and administrative staff want to achieve with your EHR? Do you want to attest to meaningful use? How will you add and integrate those reporting procedures into your everyday activities? How intuitive is your EHR when it comes to collecting this data? Can you use templates to ease the process?
The lack of well-designed, customizable templates is a perennial problem for physicians. Many products require a long series of clicks, menus, dropdowns, and buttons just to enter a simple piece of information, which frustrates users and leads to poorly standardized data. If data collection and reporting is high on your list of priorities, invest in a product that has natural-feeling templates and a variety of options for creating and tailoring data collection possibilities.
Tailoring your workflow to your practice
Every physician has his or her own style of documentation, and sometimes a physician feels that the EHR is simply not meeting those needs. Workarounds develop, using paper to take notes, or entering data in the wrong field just because it’s more immediately accessible. These workflow adaptions might seem convenient, but they produce fractured, unstructured patient records that have been shown to cause significant harm.
How do you avoid disgruntled physicians from stubbornly continuing bad habits? Consider conducting a workflow assessment as your staff gets used to the EHR. Identify problem areas before they become entrenched, and devise solutions that work within the overall goal of boosting productivity and effectively using your EHR system.
Handling paper documentation
Paper is still a part of life in an EHR-enabled office, and it’s going to stick around for the foreseeable future. But EHRs and paper documents don’t have to be arch enemies. Part of optimizing your EHR is learning to deal with physical documents, whether they’re produced by your own practice or coming in from labs, pharmacies, specialists, and hospitals.
Whether you choose to funnel all your incoming paper through a central office for scanning, invest in software that allows you to print and re-scan directly to and from the EHR, or make each physician and nurse responsible for inputting their own documents, bridging the EHR-paper divide is critical to making sure that your new system stays humming along.
Assessing and avoiding EHR-related risks
EHR implementation is a large-scale project that affects nearly every area of practice operations. With such a fundamental overhaul in the way your practice works, there are bound to be lurking problems. Whether it’s compliance and security, patient safety, IT infrastructure, or financial instability, you can’t have a truly optimized EHR without addressing every area of concern. A comprehensive risk management plan is a crucial part of the EHR adoption and optimization process. Don’t wait for problems to derail your business before addressing potential potholes in your EHR strategy.
Health information exchange and other connections
Connections between providers are becoming increasingly important, whether it’s joining a health information exchange or an ACO. Being part of a fluid data exchange encompassing the entire continuum of care the future of healthcare, and your EHR can help you get there – if you have the necessary infrastructure and procedures in place. Accepting data from external sources, whether it’s from a patient, a laboratory, or a partner provider, can require some adjustments in the way you integrate, filter, and absorb clinical data on a daily basis.
Developing a workflow within your own EHR that allows providers to easily access and review patient data provided by other sources is vital to using this information effectively. As HIE continues to make connections between hospitals and clinics coast to coast, individual providers will need to examine their own strategies for accepting and sending patient data as part of the overall challenge of optimizing your EHR to meet your specific needs.