Top Tips for Implementing a New EMR System
The advent of electronic medical records (EMR) has revolutionized the healthcare industry, offering incredible new tools for improving patient care and outcomes. Adopting an electronic health record (EHR) system for the first time or transitioning to a new EHR system is a momentous but worthwhile undertaking, one that's best done with a keen eye for project management.
Benefits of Effective EHR Project Management
Healthcare organizations have much to gain from implementing EHR applications--but only if they do it right. With savvy project management and smart integration, an EHR upgrade offers three primary benefits:
- Improved workflow: Medical staff are often overworked, struggling to deliver exceptional care despite heavy patient loads, continuing education requirements, and documentation responsibilities. When implemented properly, EHR applications reduce workload by streamlining processes, giving physicians, caregivers, and other staff more time for patient care.
- Better patient outcomes: EHR applications reduce errors, give caregivers more timely information, and improve communication among each patient's healthcare providers. Data from EHR applications can also be used to determine trends and areas for continuous improvement. Ultimately patients get better care.
- Increased reimbursements: Healthcare organizations that can demonstrate meaningful EHR adoption may be eligible for incentive payments. They may also be able to negotiate bonus reimbursements for meeting quality targets. To glean the performance results necessary to qualify, it's necessary to win buy-in from physicians and other care providers--who will ultimately enter the data used to show improvements.
Do Your Project Management Homework
Before you even begin evaluating EHR applications, you'll want to set up a project management system to track workflow, results, and individual responsibilities. Many aspects of EHR implementation prove much more manageable with the right tools.
- Application and device selection: As the team evaluates various EHR options, their findings should be systematically recorded in a central location. A similar procedure can be used for deciding what kinds of devices your physicians, nurses, and other care providers will physically use to access the EHR in various scenarios. In some cases, a stand-alone computer might be the best tool, while in others a smart phone or tablet would make more sense.
- Legacy application decommissioning: The process of migrating data from one application to another (or from paper files to electronic ones) requires careful oversight. You'll need an organization-wide process for transferring, storing, and importing data before you decommission the legacy application.
- Workflow modification: This piece of the puzzle includes multiple critical steps. Existing workflows must be modified and new workflows must be developed. But before that can happen, it's important to solicit input and feedback from patient-facing staff and others who will use the new EHR application. A rigorous, methodical approach to workflow adaptation will ensure the best results during implementation.
- EHR Implementation: Equipment and workstations may require additional setup. Software may require installation. A training system and schedule should be implemented. New patient consent forms must be published. Different individuals will invariably be responsible for different aspects of EHR rollout, and the right project management software should make it straightforward to track each individual's workload, progress, and results.
- Health Information Exchange (HIE) development: Data-storage and -exchange capacities vary among EHR applications. Managing this aspect of the implementation process is important because the 2014 certified EHR systems offer considerably more robust functionality in this domain; data exchange is an emerging trend in EHR capabilities.
- Patient Health Record (PHR) integration: Hospitals and medical practices alike are looking to web-based PHR tools engage patients and increase referrals. These systems give patients the ability to build their own digital health records online. The implementation and administration of these systems runs parallel to--and in many ways complements--that of the EHR itself. It should be treated as a separate but related project.
Ultimately the project management process for adopting a new EHR or EMR application requires a robust, flexible system. Choosing the right project management tool can make a major difference in the effectiveness of your EHR adoption.
Robert Williams is founder of goPMO, which offers the healthcare industry a practical implementation approach for project management. After many years as an IT leader in the industry, Robert saw a clear need for greater efficiency in project consideration and execution. Thus goPMO provides both an easy-to-use self-serve project implementation tool and full-service project management consultation. A certified PMP from the Project Management Institute, Williams empowers healthcare organizations and PMO's to be catalysts for high impact and powerful project delivery.