After almost 30 years of availability, electronic health records (EHRs) are now at the forefront of clinical practice and healthcare policy. With a huge marketplace of over 500 systems and government incentives driving widespread implementation, the EHR adoption rate is at nearly 70 percent for primary care physicians.
However, meaningful use (MU) requirements and certification timelines are forcing many medical providers already using EHRs to reconsider their systems, implement upgrades and reassess their EHR needs. Having gone through the EHR implementation process once it can be daunting to consider an upgrade much less the transition to a completely new product. Unfortunately, some EHRs are incapable of meeting today's data sharing requirements and getting data out to participate in HIEs, or to meet the government's growing demand for data, can be a major obstacle in poorly designed EHRs.
As a REC participant and part of the Colorado Beacon Consortium (CBC), QHN has had the opportunity to work with hundreds of healthcare providers on their EHR implementation, MU attestations and the interface process to the QHN health information exchange (HIE). We have learned many lessons from the field and below are a few key things to consider in the upgrade process.
Lesson 1 - Identify and coordinate connectivity and interface requirements and timelines
Even if you are just upgrading your current EHR it is important to identify the requirements and notify those with whom you have connectivity or interfaces with, such as QHN and the Health Department, etc. This is important so a workable testing timeline can be established to minimize downtime once your upgrade is completed.Coordinate testing activities, requirements and timelines well in advance of your go-live date.
Lesson 2 - Plan for the workflow impact
All EHR changes have impact on workflow. Take the time with your EHR implementation team to map the workflow changes and identify the training needed prior to go-live. Many EHR upgrades are in response to today's data sharing,MU and quality reporting requirements. Discuss these new features with your EHR vendor and HIE account manager so you have a clear understanding of the data gathering, data sharing and data reporting capabilities.
Lesson 3 - Don't underestimate the importance and time required for training
Especially with an upgrade it is easy to underestimate the amount of training required. Ensure that providers and staff receive full training, conducted in an environment free of distractions. Nothing is more frustrating to a provider than trying to see patients using an unfamiliar EHR environment. Do a full dress rehearsal prior to the upgrade and have dedicated real-time support during the go-live, this is when the learning potential is highest and staff training needs are the greatest.
If you have questions or need further information please contact your QHN Clinical Account Manager at: 970-248-0033.