Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

How standardization can put EHR adopters on the right path

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- Recent healthcare industry news reports that one of the nation’s largest cancer centers has chosen an EMR software vendor. For an organization of this size and complexity, their EMR implementation will be daunting and determining what defines successful implementation and adoption will be critical.

As this implementation proceeds, how will this organization install the system in a way that not only supports excellent patient care, but also provides the necessary meaningful data, analytics, and reporting required for survival in today’s healthcare environment? And while analytics are at the core of an EMR build, for captured data to be meaningful across patients, organizations, and populations, organizations must also have a strong understanding of the workflows and data points to be captured. In my years as a healthcare consultant, I’ve come to find that beginning with the “end in mind” is always the best approach.

The standardization mantra

Driving a system installation against a stated project timeline and budget is all too familiar; however, in my experience as an EMR consultant, I’ve also stressed the need for a third element — standardization. Often I’m asked, “How does this get successfully implemented at other organizations?” My answer? In many different ways, but standardization ensures a quick and efficient implementation.

HL7 has helped tremendously in our industry’s efforts to drive standardization across various data components and platforms. That being said, I believe that consultants should pick up where HL7 left off and take it one step further — to push our client organizations towards consistency in what configured data points mean in their workflows (e.g., releasing a drug from a chemotherapy treatment plan means that it has been reviewed by a RN).

Most of today’s leading EMR vendors stress the “flexibility” and “adaptability” of their systems; how their system can be configured to support a wide variety of workflows. On the surface, this would seem to be a good thing. But is it really? Are clinical workflows in various clinical specialties not often found to be quite similar across organizations (i.e., oncology care is fairly standard at most cancer centers)?

Where there is unique differentiation is in the data. Data types and meanings can be unique to an organization and failure to hone in on this level of detail during the build process can result in inadequate data reporting and analytics downstream.

The importance of configured data points

Keen attention should be given to the definition of what the configured data points mean. But, what does that mean exactly? I believe there are multiple types of standardization that can ensure a successful software implementation. One is the standardization within the organization. This can include standardization in assessment, delivery of treatments and administration of medications or drug regimens. Additionally, there can be standardization of clinical workflows to leverage fewer software configurations — an example might be in the documentation of a physician’s office visit. But an overarching standardization, I propose, is also in the meaning of the data points across organizations. Within the implementation of a new EMR, this is where our population and our healthcare systems will reap the benefits of consistent data and how we can improve.

Success comes by keeping the end in mind

For one of our nation’s largest cancer care organizations, on its threshold of an EMR implementation, I am confident that regardless of approach, they will continue their reputation of leading with excellence, that their organization’s EMR build and configuration will be designed and implemented not only with the patient in mind, but with keen attention to configuration consistency, and “what things mean.” And, by building with the end in mind, they are certain to have great success.

John “Jack” Kane, Solution Manager, CTG Health Solutions, is a healthcare professional with 30+ years’ experience with a focus on oncology and research.

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