The Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission is launching its practice management systems program following completion of pilots with NextGen Healthcare Information Systems and GE Healthcare, both of which received accreditation for meeting best practices in operating their PMS product lines.

With other vendors considering whether to get accredited, Health Data Management talked with NextGen’s Ana Croxton, vice president of EDI products and services, about the process of accreditation. Industry-sponsored EHNAC offers a range of accreditation programs for entities that process transactions or exchange health information.

“It’s a little more work than we expected,” Croxton says. In part, that is because the program was new and the piloting vendors along with EHNAC had to agree on criteria. But accreditation means understanding your processes and being able to provide evidence of compliance with a range of best practices covering business operations, financial processes and resources, technical performance, compliance with HIPAA privacy/security/transactions rules and CORE operating rules, and ICD-10 readiness.

That’s a lot of documentation and that’s when Croxton decided to assign a project manager whose duties were changed so 50 percent of the time could be spent on the accreditation program.

Another early lesson was that those going through EHNAC accreditation will learn a lot about colleagues and programs in other parts of the company. Getting all the information and documentation needed to understand and comply with accreditation criteria requires cooperation from other departments you normally don’t work with. “We had 12 people submitting documents and explaining during the site visit,” Croxton recalls. “It takes a village.”

Information asked of others outside the practice management unit included policies on background checks and accessing protected health information, risk assessment tools, and disaster recovery plans, among others, helping the team learn how other business units operate. Now, the company is a little less siloed. Accreditation opened eyes to the importance of these other areas and their infrastructures that keep various parts and products of the company moving--and how these parts operate to achieve best practices is a focus of the accreditation program, Croxton explains.

As pilot sites, NextGen and GE Healthcare had shorter timeframes to get accredited than others will in the program. But that worked to their advantage, giving impetus for colleagues in other units to respond quickly to information requests.

A lasting benefit to accreditation is that NextGen’s practice management unit now has a comprehensive framework of documentation and policies in one place, Croxton says. “It literally gives us a checklist to review where we are and where we want to be.” That checklist can help ensure the unit continues to work as intended.

Croxton pegs the cost of accreditation at less than $100,000; costs would have been lower if NextGen did not have multiple locations, so smaller vendors likely won’t incur similar outlays. She believes the company is better for spending the effort and money. “We have a baseline now for determining areas to invest in during coming years, and we have documentation that can be used with other programs.” The company also has formalized processes in place that previously may not have been fully documented, and that documentation can lead to developing better metrics to manage.

“It hasn’t been easy but very valuable to provide insight into our organizational structure,” Croxton asserts. “Any time you do that you get better, because you learn what’s working and what’s not.”

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