EHR Implementation Challenges in Small Practices
One mistake many offices make when converting files to electronic health records is to attempt to do everything at once. If your medical office isn't ready for a full-scale EHR implementation, a push to complete the process on a tight deadline overwhelms and burns out staff. Converting records at a pace that isn't right for your office—or doing so before you're ready or have the right resources in place—can also corrupt your patient care processes, resulting in treatment mistakes or poor patient experience. Here's a look at how to face those, and other, EHR challenges in a small or mid-sized medical office.
1. Limited Technical Resources
In most cases, a small doctor's office or other medical practice isn't going to have an in-house technical department. Large companies have the staff to integrate existing processes and software with new EHR software, programmers to tweak systems, and technical experts to conduct training. They may also have the right hardware—like servers—to support a large EHR solution.
Small practices will need to depend on an EHR software vendor to provide most of the technical know-how for an EHR implementation. Because onsite hardware and implementation can be expensive, offices should consider cloud or web-based EHR solutions to reduce the cost of initial set up and long-term maintenance. A good vendor can provide web-based solutions that offer all the functionality and security of an in-house set up.
2. Limited Compliance Resources
In a large organization, every change that involves confidential patient information is filtered through a compliance or legal team. Admittedly, that type of process presents its own challenges for an electronic medical record implementation, but without those compliance resources, you may be left wondering if your EMR software for small practice solution is compliant. Health IT comes with its own set of privacy rules, which you can learn about on the government's HealthIT website. You should also select a vendor that demonstrates an understanding of federal, state, and local regulations and has a proven track record of compliance implementations.
3. Limited Staff Resources
When selecting an EMR Software for small practice offices, consider the limitations of your office staff. A very small office may have a physician, a nurse, and one or two front-end office assistants. Even a medium-sized office may only have a dozen employees. You can't afford to pull these staff members constantly from patient-care responsibilities, so you'll need to plan your implementation with care. Work with a vendor who understands the specific challenges of smaller offices and who will offer assistance and advice throughout the process. Consider scheduling the implementation over a longer span of time to avoid burn out—you might convert the most used or most recent patient files first, and work backwards over the course of a year. After a few weeks or months, most of the information used on a regular basis will be in the system, and someone will only need to make trips to the file room or archives for odd requests.
4. Limited In-House Training Resources
Unlike corporate medical facilities, which have their own training departments, you'll probably need to rely on vendor training for your EHR implementation. If you have a very small office, the vendor can probably train everyone directly. For medium-sized offices, avoid pulling everyone from work by selecting a few individuals for training. Those individuals would then train others. When going this route, it's a good idea to choose at least one office staff member—such as a claims biller or front-desk clerk—and one clinical staff member, such as a nurse. Each area will have different concerns, questions, and needs, so including both in training ensures your office gets the most comprehensive EHR software training.
The keys to a successful EHR implementation in a small or mid-sized office are understanding when your practice is ready for an implementation and selecting a vendor that takes the time to learn about and meet your specific needs. EHR software is not only becoming a requirement for most healthcare organizations, but it will also allow your office to deliver more efficient and accurate patient care. Receiving those benefits requires you to face the challenges of EHR implementation in a small office and work with your vendor for success.