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Why EHR Replacement Projects Should Take a Slow Trajectory

Between project development and technical steps, EHR replacement projects should take a slow and steady approach.

By Sara Heath

- As the healthcare industry shifts to new models of care, healthcare organizations look to enhance their EHR technology through EHR replacements and EHR optimizations.

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Between care coordination, patient-centered care, and the persistent push for interoperability, EHR replacement projects are coming to the forefront for healthcare executives. This can be a daunting task, experts say, but there are some steps healthcare organizations can take to ease the process.

Foremost, healthcare organizations should take their time with the replacement. Although this may be counterintuitive to those looking to solve a sometimes debilitating problem within a practice, taking ample time to set an intention, create an action plan, and then successfully carry out the replacement and subsequent data migration will ensure that the EHR replacement project is fully worth the time and the financial investment.

Experts from Stoltenberg Consulting Group say that time is often one of the top objects on healthcare executives’ minds when approaching an EHR replacement.

"For us, the question from the executive team is consistently: How are we sure this time that we won't be talking to you again in two to three years to have to make a decision yet again?" said Mark Hess of Stoltenberg in an interview with EHRIntelligence.com.

Hess says that he and others at Stoltenberg start a project by taking a moment to suggest a longer timeline for the replacement, explaining that slow and steady wins the race, so to speak.

"We take a little more time — six months — and what we do in that timeframe is to put forward an objective process," he said. "When we go into these kinds of events, there is a natural bias towards a direction. When we have those clients who ask us for a 90-day process on a significant decision — a $40- to $50-million decision — that bias is actually something in the past that affected the way they thought before."

This slower and more careful approach also allows for better group collaboration. EHR replacement projects should and often do involve multiple stakeholders from hospital executives to end-users, each with their own idea of how the project should commence. By taking an intentional and calculated approach to the project, these varied stakeholders have the time to listen, understand, and collaborate, creating a better solution to the EHR problem.

"They have a nice way as a group coming to a consensus. Each of the executives comes with their own set of answers and through collaboration, they get to a better result," Hess said.

EHR replacement projects are also an enormous task because of the heaping pile of technical work that goes along with them. Paramount to that work is the data migration process, which can be both time consuming and complicated.

"You’ve got to be able to sit down and do that mapping, and doing thorough testing to make sure that it’s done," Jerrilyn Ivey, Director of Consulting Services at Culbert Healthcare Solutions, told EHRIntelligence.com. "All of that requires a great deal of time. Data migration sometimes gets the short end of the stick and people don’t give it enough time in their project plan to thoroughly vet and test it out."

From critical appointment data for provider scheduling to information needed for HIPAA purposes, data migration is a vital component of the EHR replacement process. For that reason, experts say it should not be an afterthought, and must receive ample attention from those involved in the replacement project.

Taking this slower approach to both EHR replacement project development and data migration also allows team members the time to become fully invested in the project. That investment inevitably leads to provider buy-in, which ultimately makes for a smoother transition process.

"The best part of this is the implementation goes more smoothly," Hess argued. "When they have this collaborative approach, they are all bought in before it even starts. We're seeing better results through the implementation cycle, through the optimization cycle. The executive team doesn't tear and that cycles all the way down to the end-users."

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