At times, an EHR software implementation can feel like trying to ram a square peg through a round hole. You’ve got all sorts of tiny moving parts to consider (and not to mention people), and communication is often sorely lacking. Have you ever tried to move a couch in a very cramped room? It’s kind of like that. To make the process fast and simple, you need a team — a group that will take the reins and lead your organization step-by-step through EHR implementation.
But how do you go about selecting the best EHR software for your business and gathering a stellar EHR implementation team? There’s a lot of steps involved in both, but we can quickly help you with the first one through our robust comparison reports.
Once you’ve decided on an EHR system, it’s time to decide whether you need a team, and then figure out how to implement your EHR tools into your complex workflow.
The first half of this article will discuss selecting a team for installing and managing your EHR system. The second half of this article will deal with an implementation timeline and the steps you need to take to successfully complete an implementation. If you’d like to skip ahead to that section, click here.
Selecting Your EHR Implementation Team: Where to Start
An EHR implementation team are your allies, the ones you lean upon, and the ones who lean upon you during the taxing process of implementing your electronic health record system. The group’s role is to evangelize the EHR software, train others and to see the project through to completion. When you’re selecting teammates and putting together an implementation plan, your team is at the helm. Here are a few essential traits to look out for when selecting an EHR implementation team:
They have an active interest in the task
Nothing is worse than being “voluntold” (being made to do something you don’t want to do). If you select the wrong champion, such as someone without a keen interest in technology or who doesn’t understand medical records, then your implementation dream is going to quickly turn into an implementation nightmare. Look for someone who:
- Is eager to take on the task
- Has a background in IT
- Can make room for the project in their schedule
- Demonstrates a proven track record for completing projects on time
- Is a nurse, doctor, IT technician, scheduler or manager
Individuals who meet all of the above criteria will be your most reliable teammates, but it’s entirely likely that you won’t find someone who checks off ALL of the items in the list. If someone has one or two of the qualities that could make them a great member of your EHR implementation team, it might still be a good idea to consider them.
Are communication champions
Proper, documented communication is incredibly powerful. We could go in-depth on the importance of hierarchies, honesty and empathy when communicating, but we’ll save that for another time. Still, for your implementation specialist teams, you’ll need to ensure that they communicate effectively during the project. You’ll want people who:
- Use the same communication methods and styles
- Use the same communication channels
- And have the same level of communication skills
Sounds easy? Guess again.
According to a 2018 report from The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, there are already significant barriers in corporate communication, and chief among them (cited by 42% of respondents) are different styles of communication. Communication barriers are responsible for project failures in 44% of instances, for 31% of instances of low morale, 25% of missed performance goals and, most shockingly, 18% of all missed sales where the value was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What’s also important is communicating in the same channels. For example, if you have younger team members, organizing over an instant messaging service might be the way to go. By leveraging a unified communication platform (Slack is a fairly common medium), your team can more effectively evangelize your software solution.
Additionally, you’ll want to select a team that not only has good communication skills with external partners, but also within the team itself. You’re going to want your EHR implementation team to be functioning on the same wavelength and speaking the same language, both metaphorically and literally.
Will make firm decisions
“Wishy-washy” is a word people use to describe others who don’t make firm decisions. Ever tried to make plans with a person who constantly changes their mind or seems unsure of themselves? It’s like pulling teeth!
The mark of a good team member is one who will stand by their own decisions and support the decisions of their team. Strong decision-makers will also
- Use logic in their decision
- Be able to back up their reasoning
- Make decisions with finality
Additionally, a strong decision-maker will be able to calmly and effectively work through any issues that arise as a result of their decisions. They account for errors and take steps to correct them honestly and earnestly.
Let’s take a look at a simple example of how firm decision-making skills apply to the implementation of EHR systems.
Let’s say you’ve got to pick between two different EHR solutions: one is cheaper but less feature-rich, and the other is more expensive but has some potentially useful advanced features. It’s not an easy choice to make, because you want to choose the program with the highest potential ROI, but you’ve got two roughly equal options in front of you.
So, you decide to go with the cheaper of the two options to save your company some money. And when people ask you why you’ve gone with that specific option, you proudly state your reasoning and stand by your choice. That’s what it means to make firm decisions.
EHR Implementation: A Step-By-Step Guide
Now that you’ve got your team assembled, you’re ready to start putting your EHR system into place. This is where the hard part begins. No worries though, we’ve got your back.
We’ve created an in-depth guide for you that’s broken up into bite-sized pieces based on where you are in your installation process. Just click the links below to get started. The general recommend time frame is four months to build out an EHR system, though this process can be completed sooner. Now, let’s dive in,
- Four Months Before Implementation
- Two-to-Three Months Before Launch
- One Month Before Implementation
- Launch Day
Four Months Before Implementation
You’re at the start of your journey. You’ve chosen your software using one of our robust vendor comparison reports, and your team is ready to get to work. There’s bound to be some implementation challenges, so where do you start?
First, start with hardware (if you’ve gone with a cloud solution like 73% of all deployments, you can ignore this section). Your shiny new EHR system needs a place to live, and you need other machines that can interface with it. Either install (or purchase) essentials like laptops, tablets, fax machines, scanners and any servers you might need. This is where your IT expert and managers come into play.
At this stage, you should also start creating guides, soliciting feedback for future EHR implementations and teaching your staff to use the software.
Two-to-Three Months Before Launch
With all your infrastructure set up, you’re going to want to take any staff feedback and try to implement it if at all possible. Something that works well is setting up protocols in this phase. So, for example, you might establish a rule set for scanning and faxing information. At this time, it might also be helpful to install auxiliary software such as drivers, speech-to-text applications, etc. It’s essential to never stop soliciting staff feedback for your EHR software. This is your chance to perfect and tweak your ecosystem before the final installation.
One Month Before Implementation
At this time, your EHR software should be installed onto your infrastructure, allowing you to finally test drive it for yourself. Usually, during the installation phase the vendor will offer training of some kind to circumvent implementation challenges. It’s important to get your EHR implementation team into those training sessions so they can document everything as thoroughly as possible (though many software vendors offer their own robust documentation).
And when you’re not training or test driving the system? There’s still work to be done. Lots of work, actually. You’ll need to make sure the software is functional and that it’s performing according to spec. You don’t want any mishaps or slowdowns crippling your practice. On top of that, run all the tests that you can think of — send a fax, print something, send over a prescription and scan things.
The idea is to get as close to your real-world use-case as you possibly can. Something that many EHR system maintainers do is create “dummy” patients and run them through the entire EHR system to test the program’s functionality. While you’re running your test patient through the system, be sure to take notes (especially if there are any snags that might cause delays). You’ll want to account for them and fix them later when you’re performing the full implementation. It could be that parts of your system or processes aren’t optimized for your EHR implementation, or that the system itself isn’t apt for your medical practices. Luckily, you still have a month to work out the kinks.
The big moment is finally here. You’ve got all your infrastructure in place, you’ve implemented all of your procedures, you’ve taken all of your technical notes and you’ve run several test patients through the system. You’re almost at the end of the implementation process, but there are still a few more things on the list to take care of before you go live. We’re going to go over that list in a bit more detail here.
- Determine how many physicians will have to be involved with your implementation
- Decide on one of these approaches for your roll out:
- An incremental approach is the most popular, though it often results in slower roll outs. It involves installing the system in modular increments and testing each module as it comes online.
- An “all-at-once” approach is possible but is more error-prone. It’s a quick approach where you take the system and install it to all of your practices in one go. It can be risky, but has the potential to save massive amounts of time.
- “Testing the waters” is another approach where you pick certain practices to roll out to and then compare performance against your other practices.
- Provide staff with resources
- This may include training documentation or access to IT resources such as phones, faxes, computers, software, etc.
- Designate resource officers
- This is an extremely important step because, oftentimes, people prefer to consult another person as opposed to combing through lengthy and droll documentation. Resource officers can also intercede if there are any problems with the EHR system, whereas a piece of paper or PDF can’t.
- Let third parties know
- Just like with utilizing resource officers, informing third parties (this includes vendors, patients and clients of yours) ensures you can get support. This also lets you quickly explain any system outages or downtime.
- Create a contingency plan
- What if things go wrong? You should expect a few hiccups and glitches here and there, but critical failures are still possible at this stage — and they can sometimes be human errors too. Prepare a plan to shut the system down, and make sure you have fallback systems in place.
- Evaluate progress with your team
- Make sure to address any concerns that your team might have, and take notes so that you can keep them in mind moving forward (if you can’t address them immediately).
- Schedule end-of-day final briefings
- Assess progress and take any end-of-day notes that might be useful for the next day.
- Measure success with KPIs
- Also known as key performance indicators, KPIs are set metrics you can use to establish growth or stagnation. A few helpful ones to note are cost of implementation vs. post-implementation revenue, time saved by using the system, patient satisfaction and more.
Nobody ever said that implementing an EHR system was easy. It’s a multi-month process when you do it right, and it’s fraught with implementation challenges. And if you don’t have an EHR implementation system picked out yet, that’s an even bigger problem. Lucky for you, we can help with our robust comparison guides.
What are some additional factors you’re looking for in an EHR implementation team member? Let us know in the comments below!