The decision is made; it’s time to replace the EHR system, but how difficult will the transition be and what are the issues should you be aware of? EHR Intelligence states that implementing a replacement system can actually be much more complex than just the initial installation. Why? Because providers have a better understanding of what they want, so they create a laundry list of needs that didn’t exist the first time around.
Moreover, add problems like as Hipaa compliance, impact on provider and staff productivity and data migration and it now becomes clear why there are a number of issues that need to be resolved. Consider the following six challenges you may encounter when planning an EHR replacement.
1. EHR Data Transfer
Even though your current EMR Vendor probably told you that you own the data stored within your EMR Software and you believe that changes to Meaningful Use standards, which now require EMR systems to use standard formats to send and receive data, would make EHR data transfer easy (or simple), it is probably the biggest challenge that you will face in your EHR replacement efforts.
Providers seeking to replace their EHR should address the following few questions:
- Does the practice own the rights to all the data in current EHR?
- What format is the data stored in? How much of it is structured vs. how much is in unstructured format?
Data Migration Process
Data extraction, transformation and loading (ETL) also known as data migration are complex processes because of semantic and data format differences between systems.
- Will your current EHR Vendor assist with data extraction?
- Does your new EHR Vendor have the expertise to extract data from your current EHR and transform it to load it in your new EHR?
- How much and what data elements do you want extracted from the current EHR for loading into the new EHR? Migrated data may include medications, allergies, demographics, insurance details, appointments,problems, procedures, immunizations, images, documents, etc.
- What will your current EHR Vendor charge you to extract data?
- What are the additional charges that will be billed by your new EHR vendor, if any, to transform and load data?
Look for an EHR vendor with the skills and expertise to extract and load the data based on the answers to these questions. Security during the data migration is another topic of discussion and must to be tackled before the fact.
2. EHR Replacement Impacting Productivity
Any time that you replace a system, there is a significant impact on user productivity for various reasons. The longer the transition period from the existing system to a new system, the larger the impact, and in some cases can even potentially cripple a practice.
When considering the replacement, find out:
- How long will data transfer take? Will both EHR systems exist and operate in parallel and if so for how long?
- How will user training on new EHR be factored in?
- Are there any penalties for early termination of contract with the current vendor?
- What is the transition plan? What will be its impact on the ability of the clinic to provide patient care?
Timing the switch to slow periods or looking for a way to speed up the process will reduce the impact a replacement has on the practice's productivity and finances. Options may include either going in for a big bang conversion including EHR and Practice Management or staggering their implementations.
3. Keeping an Open Line of Communication
Gaining stakeholder buy-in is critical for the successful implementation and integration of the new EHR. Proper communication during this transitional period can eliminate much of the confusion. Practices should keep stakeholders, patients and staff in the loop when planning any changes.
Communication is another key element when selecting a new vendor. Look for a vendor that is transparent about their products and company. Research the history of the business and check their references prior to selecting a new EHR vendor.
4. Avoiding Financial Pitfalls
Since EHR replacement will, in most cases, cost the practice more than the initial EHR implementation, be cautious by establishing a budget prior to shopping for a replacement EHR. Focus on the features that enhance efficiency and avoid the less practical and more costly options.
Additionally, ask each potential EHR vendor for a detailed analysis of their costs including data migration. Costs should be broken down into the following categories: Hardware, EHR Software, IT Support, Data Migration, EHR configuration and customization, Training, Ongoing network fees and Maintenance. Take the time to consider the financial impact the changeover will have in terms of productivity, staff training, patient flow and Meaningful Use incentives.
5. Figure Out What is Wrong with the Current System
Avoid repeating the same mistakes when choosing a new vendor. Write down the features that are the most useful in the old system and detail the ones that were cumbersome. This will assist you in setting the baseline of features and functionalities that your replacement EHR must support.
Conduct a detailed analysis of what went wrong with the previous implementation with your entire team. Consider areas such as interface of EHR with medical billing software, training, workflow, hardware, alerts, interfaces, etc.
Establish specific goals you want the new EMR software platform to achieve, such as enhanced metrics and improved productivity and provider satisfaction levels. If you do not set measurable goals, you will not be able to evaluate the metrics of success or failure.
6. Consider the Future of New System
Technology evolves naturally. What looks innovative now may be antiquated in a year. A growing medical practice changes over time, as well. Look for a system that is going to grow with the practice. Select an EHR vendor that is innovating consistently and stays ahead of the curve and finds new ways for the physicians to provide even better patient care.
Understanding the challenges of replacing your EHR in advance and creating a strategy will ease the transition and lead the practice into the next phrase of EHR. RevenueXL helps small and mid-sized clinics implement cost-effective EHR solutions with Meaningful Use Stage 2 Certified EHR Software. Call us today to discuss your EHR replacement needs and to schedule an EMR demo.
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