Getting Your Practice Ready for an EHR

Objectives:

  • Identify priorities
  • Identify colleague interest
  • Become familiar with common issues and techniques related to transitioning old records
  • Complete an evaluation/needs assessment

Steps to Readying Your Practice for EHR Implementation

Determine Interest Among Colleagues and Staff

It is critical to determine the level of interest and support for an EHR initiative among your colleagues and staff. If you can identify and empower champions, you enhance the likelihood of success. You must also uncover potential resistance. Address individuals' concerns directly and invite them to be involved in the process.

Fear of the Unknown

Change makes people feel uneasy. Such is human nature. You will enhance your chance of success (and minimize trauma to your staff) by tackling this fear head on. Start by making certain your staff and colleagues understand why this change, although difficult, is essential. Don't forget to keep those who are not directly involved in the process updated about its progress. One easy way to do this is to schedule regular meetings to review major decisions and milestones. It's also a good idea to share anticipated timelines with the whole office so they can track the project as it unfolds.

Set Expectations

The amount of work required during the transition (and even after) can be substantial. Don't let this come as a surprise to anyone. Make sure your colleagues and staff know what is expected of them. For example, explain that a temporary drop in productivity during the implementation phase is expected and acceptable.

Explain Benefits

Communicate the expected benefits of the EHR implementation– not only the benefits to patients and the practice as a whole, but also to individual staff. For example, highlight benefits such as ready access to charts, fewer chart pulls, improved intra-office communication, and more efficient handling of medication refills.

Establish the EHR Team

With any large project, a project team needs to be assembled. There are different roles that need to be filled, but one person may fill more than one role.

Project Manager: This person will manage and oversee all aspects of the EHR project including project administration and resource management.

Clinical Leader: This person will oversee the clinical impact of the project and make decisions about how clinical processes are redesigned.

Business Leader: This person is responsible for overseeing the financial and legal concerns during the project.

Technical Leader: This person is responsible for overseeing the technical aspects of the project. He or she also serves as the technical advisor to the project.

In a small practice, a physician may play all of the roles or they may be split between two physicians. In a medium-sized practice, the champion physician is usually the project manager and the technical leader. Another physician may take the role of clinical leader, and the business manager may take the role of business leader for the project. In a larger practice, the project manager and technical leader may come from outside of the practice.

No matter how these roles are filled, they must be filled. You may want to consider a consultant to fill the role of technical leader and/or project manager. Many EHR vendors can provide consultative services. If a consultant is used, a person in the practice serving in one of the other roles must provide oversight of the consultant.