How to overcome 10 top EHR implementation challenges
The vast majority of healthcare organizations have electronic health records systems in place, but the use of such systems does not remain static. New capabilities are added, or organizations decide to rip old ones out and replace them with new ones. For most providers, clinical system implementation is a concern that comes up regularly, and such initiatives often can cause problems and frustration.
Recently, Mobisoft Infotech— a global digital product development company—detailed 10 significant EHR implementation challenges and potential strategies for overcoming the difficulties. First the problems…then, how to overcome them.
EHR implementation is an expensive affair—the selection, implementation and optimization of an EHR system can consume most of an organization’s capital budget investment. Mobisoft notes that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT estimates the cost of purchasing and installing an EHR system ranges from $15,000 to $70,000 per provider. Implementations involve setting up the hardware, software costs, implementation assistance, staff training, ongoing network fees and maintenance. Unplanned expenses also can crop up, and finding financial resources for EHR implementations is one of the major hurdles, especially for smaller establishments.
Whether it’s implementing a new system from the ground up, or transitioning from an existing system, not everyone is open to the idea of making technological changes. In addition, there are health practitioners who are doubtful about the efficacy of electronic health records and may be reluctant to give up documentation practices. In some cases, the staff lack awareness about the current technological advancements and the comprehensive benefits of it. It leads to the delayed implementation of EHR.
Provider staffs need thorough training in the new system and workflows. Physicians and the medical team must invest extra time and effort to understand the new system. It is a time-consuming process and a hassle for both the staff and the management. Small and mid-sized organizations fear the loss of business during the training phase. Also, staff may consider it an unnecessary effort.
If the EHR system doesn’t fit into an organization’s existing workflows, clinicians find it difficult to adapt to it. The one-size-fits-all rule does not suit the EHR system, as the workflows of a primary care physician differs from that of a cardiologist. Flaws in the design or the inadequacy of training decrease the ease of using the software.
Data privacy issues often form a substrate to an entire implementation. Stakeholders may voice concerns over the risk of data leakage because of a natural disaster or a cyberattack. HIPAA rules require protection of the confidentiality of personal health data. In case of a security breach, the organization may get into a legal hassle and have to spend millions of dollars to settle the dispute.
Exporting data—whether from paper to a new system, or from an existing system to a new one—can be a logistical nightmare. Any data entry required might become a tedious and a time-consuming task for staff. This is a major EHR implementation challenge for hospitals and effort is doubled if there is no proper format in the former system. An organizations might need to maintain legacy systems for years after a new system is implemented, for legal and record access reasons.
Technical resource limitations
This issue often is faced by small clinical establishments and private health practitioners—they rarely own an in-house technical team. Moreover, they might not have the required hardware to support the EHR solution. It is a huge expense to build an in-house technical team and buy hardware, which is a common reason for small and mid-sized healthcare providers for delaying the EHR implementation process.
EHR systems need to be able to exchange information so that different providers can make use of it and get a complete picture of a patient’s health. While EHR vendors are making strides in improving interoperability, it can become a frustration for the implementing organization, particularly exchanging information across different systems used by multiple providers.
Proper training shortcomings
EHR implementation brings in a cultural change in the organization, and hence, the change management aspects of EHR implementation become a real challenge. It needs to be strategically planned in advance and commitment is expected from all stakeholders. The successful implementation and sustainability of the EHR system requires significant, detailed planning.
Lack of vendor-provider communication
Effective communication between the healthcare provider and the IT vendor is essential to fine-tune the EHR system to yield the desired results. It is not a one-time activity but a continuous process to ensure that the expectations of both the parties are met. The concerns and feedbacks of the provider should be addressed appropriately.
7 steps to improving the EHR implementation process
Here's Mobisoft's list of solutions to make the EHR installation and transition process easier and manageable.
Have a strategic plan A detailed strategic plan is a key requirement for an effective implementation plan. Assign duties and responsibilities for team members, identify the physician champions, and create a space for mutual support and dependence. Make sure the team has contingency plans, too. Workforce productivity may decrease; workflow may go haywire, and patients may get annoyed during the implementation phase.
Treat consultants as partners
EHR implementation is a collaborative process that requires commitment from all the team members, including providers, IT vendors, consultants, staff, physicians and IT staff. Share the larger vision of the process and make it a common goal among the stakeholders to work towards it. This helps to complete the implementation on time, within the budget and with optimal usability.
Provide strong leadership
To align the team to the organization’s EHR implementation process, leaders should act proactively to provide strong and direct change management. Create a subcommittee of leaders who have experience in implementing new IT systems to guide the implementation team.
While making decisions on the EHR implementation, think about how and why it would benefit patients. In a value-based healthcare system, the wants of the patient are of utmost importance, and it’s important to realize that any change in underlying systems are likely to affect staff and clinicians, which can have negative downstream effects on how patients receive—and perceive—care.
Follow a timeline
It is a challenge to meet deadlines while the EHR implementation process is carried out. Try to keep timeline expectations accurate by creating a realistic plan. Communicate with your team on how much a single day of delay will cost. Having a realistic expectation of all implementation requirements will result in a more accurate list of tasks to be completed and better scheduling.
Ensure ample training
The motive behind most EHR implementations is to streamline the process and improve efficiency. If staff fail to use the system effectively and continue to follow traditional methods, these goals will remain unattainable. Employ a comprehensive training plan for the staff and communicate to them how the new system benefits patient care and make their job easier and efficient. Encourage them by giving recognition when milestones are met or consider additional payments for the extra time they put in.
Work with EHR implementation experts
For successful implementation of an EHR system, get assistance from experts who have in-depth knowledge of both the workflow of the provider organization and the EHR system being deployed. Take advantage of the opportunities to learn from leaders who have deployed EHR systems efficiently in a health establishment. This helps in anticipating the roadblocks on the way and resolving them quickly.