How to Get the Most Out of Your EHR Implementation

To optimize their investments, healthcare IT leaders must emphasize infrastructure, education and more.

The implementation of an electronic health record system is a massive investment for a healthcare organization, both financially and for staff and clinicians. The vetting process of EHR vendors alone can be intense and time-consuming, and that’s prior to the deployment of any tools, including the EHR itself and other peripheral IT.

With that in mind, it’s up to health IT leaders to ensure organizations get the most out of such efforts in order to maximize both employee and patient satisfaction. A number of factors are at play for providers headed down this path.

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Build Up a Proper Foundation

One of the biggest keys to a successful EHR deployment is ensuring your technology infrastructure is up to date. According to Sue Schade, a principal at StarBridge Advisors who previously served as CIO at both the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a healthcare organization’s infrastructure must be able to support any new system at scale.

“Conduct a thorough performance evaluation, and if you are considering a hosted solution, take support levels and overall cost into account,” Schade says. “At the same time, recognize that peripheral devices will continue to evolve, meaning new clinician end-user tools will constantly be on the horizon.”

In looking to support its Epic EHR installation, for instance, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston deployed a virtual desktop infrastructure in addition to all-flash storage and new servers.

“Get the best deal that you can, but implement the infrastructure that you need so that patients can get the entire value from the software,” Vice President and CTO Chuck Suitor told HealthTech.

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Troubleshoot and Train Healthcare Staff

Troubleshooting, of course, must also be prioritized to figure out where potential use pain points may exist. During an EHR rollout at Houston Methodist, the organization built simulation labs and ran a gap analysis that enabled doctors to test the system and pinpoint problems.

Last summer, the Pew Charitable Trusts, MedStar Health’s National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare and the American Medical Association jointly published a report advocating for advanced usability testing, especially around potential safety issues.

User training is also critical to the success of an EHR deployment. A white paper published by Stanford Medicine in September notes the amount of EHR training doctors get can have a positive impact on their system satisfaction. It quotes Taylor Davis, executive vice president for analysis and strategy at KLAS Enterprises, as saying that devoting higher-than-average amounts of time to physician EHR training helps users to face the realization that such tools won’t necessarily “be intuitive enough to use out of the box.”

Schade, in her article, suggests leveraging alternatives to classroom-based training, if possible, especially since finding enough space to train all users adequately can prove challenging.

Continue to Optimize Your EHR Investment

In addition, organizations must put great emphasis on continued optimization following a deployment. This goes hand in hand with troubleshooting and training. As technological or process issues are discovered — and there are usually a few unique to every implementation — IT leaders can update workflow processes and ensure users are properly educated.

EHR deployments are very involved processes. Maximizing the investment requires a lot of patience, flexibility and a continued eye on the ultimate goal of improved patient care.

This article is part of HealthTech’s MonITor blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using #WellnessIT.

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Jan 17 2019

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