How to Implement Electronic Health Records in 8 Steps

1 September 2020

Electronic Health Records (EHR) implementation is the ultimate digital transformation for health facilities. It’s the right step and comes with multiple benefits, including enabling quick access to patient records, secure sharing of electronic information, and improving productivity and work-life balance. On the other hand, though, EHR implementation is one of the most challenging undertakings, with staff resistance, perhaps the biggest impediment. Even at the board level, there will be resistance. Building acceptance and positivity around the changes can take significant effort.

Medical record in electronic form. Digital EMR with patient health care information. Doctor using tablet in hospital or clinic. Personal data in mobile device. Online database for healthcare history.

The other key challenge is data migration. Migrating existing data into a new EHR system is a technical and delicate process considering that health records are private and sensitive. It’s also a tedious process, given the enormous volumes of data that you may be moving.

Finally, there’s the issue of lost productivity. Typically, there’s a reduction in the number of patients seen and workflow efficiency during EHR migration.

Implement Your EHR in 8 Simple Steps

We’ve compiled an 8-step process you can use to implement your EHR without the many roadblocks. Proceed as follows;

  • Assess your EHR readiness

A common mistake health facilities make is just jumping onto the EHR bandwagon without assessing their readiness. It can be a costly mistake. Even when you think you’re ready, you may not be truly prepared in some aspects. You need to be prepared in four key areas – culture, leadership & management, operations, workflow & process automation, and technology.

Feel free to use Stratis Health’s Organizational Readiness Assessment document to assess your readiness. You should only jump in if your assessment returns a “Highly Prepared” verdict.

  • Workflow analysis

Once you’ve determined that you’re “highly prepared” for EHR implementation, the next step is to determine where you stand at the moment and where you want to be once you’ve implemented the electronic records systems.

Begin by assessing your present workflow and processes and grade them in terms of effectiveness. Ideally, you want to identify each process in your healthcare system, its role in the health facility, and what makes it efficient. This will help you identify gaps in your present systems. Then, list EHR system features that would fill those gaps to boost productivity.

  • Develop an EHR implementation roadmap

A roadmap is an outline of the entire implementation process, complete with details of every activity that needs to be executed by the various players participating in the EHR migration. This is also where you create an implementation budget.

You have three options here. You can create a roadmap in the form of a checklist where you tick off the steps and activities as you implement them, or have a matrix or template-style roadmap. The good news is that tools like Google Sheets now make the creation of roadmaps easy. Alternatively, consider advanced project management tools such as Trello or Asana. If you’re working with an IT consultant, they’ll likely use one of the latter two.

  • Pick an EHR product

Steps one and two in this checklist should help you pick out the right EHR product for your hospital. Make sure it’s a system that streamlines the processes you already have in place and works with them to help you accomplish your goals.

Although you know what (features) to look for by now, we must stress a few considerations. First, make sure you choose the right hosting provider. Many facilities prefer cloud-based software-as-a-service hosting over on-site hosting. Device support, interoperability, compliance, and security are other factors to prioritize.

  • Customize the EHR to suit your needs

Adapting the solution to meet your needs is perhaps the most time-consuming step in the EHR implementation process. Why? Because it demands rethinking your care model with EHR technology in mind. You’ll need to tailor the EHR system to match critical processes in your facility and modify non-essential processes in the existing health system to work harmoniously with the EHR system.

Key areas of operation to focus on include medication management, patient history, and billing updates. Don’t forget about integrations. If you work closely with third-party laboratories, insurance companies, and pharmacies, you’ll need to integrate with these providers.

  • Time to launch

Once you’re through with product customization, you’re ready to launch. However, don’t just “go-live” without any caution. Instead, spare a few days to plan for the event to minimize errors, if any. The first thing you want to do is test the system to check whether it’s working as envisaged. Is the network working? Is the backup system working? What about usability?

After testing, choose a launch date and a dress-rehearsal date. The dress rehearsal comes before the official launch. Also, create an issue resolution plan detailing how issues arising from the newly-launched system should be resolved. Then, go live.

  • Put a training program in place

It’s impractical to expect everything to fall in place right away. It doesn’t happen that way, even at the best hospitals. Instead, you need a robust training program so that all the physicians and staff, current and future, can gain the knowledge and skills they need to use the EHR system effectively.

We recommend starting slow by providing essential skills and introducing additional training, maybe a week after the basic “drive.” Another tactic that works excellently in training is allowing colleagues to teach colleagues. Let nurses teach nurses and surgeons teach surgeons. The training should be ongoing.

  • Gather feedback for continual improvement

You can only improve by learning from mistakes (and good experiences) along the way. So, open the communication doors and let staff members and physicians share their experiences and frustrations. Then use the feedback to make modifications.

Aside from feedback, you also need to measure your performance against your goals. How many transactions are you processing? What’s the turnaround time for orders? And, are you hitting your return on investment targets? Keeping an eye on these metrics is a great way to evaluate your progress and measure your success.

About NIX Solutions

NIX Solutions is a global leader in state-of-the-art Healthcare technologies. We help enterprises, including health practices, uncover and implement innovative tech solutions to boost their profitability and grow their bottom lines. Contact us today to learn more about EHR implementation.