When I first started this blog a few months ago, I had visions of creating a captivating post every week or so. I was ready to share my thoughts and insights on this exciting technology journey that the health care industry has vigorously embraced. So, first let me apologize to the Health Data Management community: I have not come close to making good on my commitment to this blog--and I am sorry.

My excuse? As a consultant, I have taken it upon myself to provide community hospitals with the pluck to believe that they can actually meet the July 1, 2011 start date for 2011 meaningful use attestation. Although the goal is a substantial one, it’s one of those once-in-a-career opportunities that I believe is worthy of a healthy dose of extra effort.

Exactly why am I encouraging these providers to bite off so much? Sure, I want them to fully take advantage of the government’s financial incentives. But that’s just the icing on the cake: What I really want is for these providers to realize that information technology can have a positive impact on patient care, efficiency--and ultimately their survival in these turbulent economic times. I truly believe that I.T. is the lifeline of an industry that is sorely in need of a saving grace.  

As a result, my days--and nights (and weekends)--have been extraordinarily overscheduled as I help community hospitals with relatively SMALL information systems department staffs attempt to implement BIG certified EHR software.  

But I truly believe that community hospitals can achieve this goal by working hard--and, perhaps more importantly, keenly focusing on the EHR implementation goal.

Job No. 1: Focus on choosing the right technology. Remember, just because a system qualifies in a testing environment for meaningful use certification does not mean that it can or will be adopted by physicians and clinicians. Hospitals leaders, therefore, need to choose an EHR based solely on assessing the precise functionality that will drive their organizations toward achieving their specific goals. Nothing more, nothing less.

After choosing a technology, I then work with leaders to implement a unique EHR development methodology that models the hospital’s current records protocols and processing against an idyllic future electronic records vision. The focus: Designing the system to enable immediate adoption.

After laying this groundwork, the focus shifts to changing clinical processes, redefining workflows and gaining user acceptance to help hospitals get their certified EHR systems up and running across their organizations.

Admittedly, with this targeted approach in place, I believe--and my clients believe--that health care organizations can, in fact, meet the 2011 meaningful use requirements. That’s why we are all putting so much effort into it.  I encourage others to follow our lead – and focus on their EHR implementations now, when the effort will result in so many benefits. 

Now, if I could only drink some of my own lemonade when it comes to writing  . . .

Becky Quammen is the CEO at Quammen Health Care Consultants. During her 25-year career in health I.T. she’s held senior management positions at large provider organizations and a major health care software vendor. She can be reached at becky@quammengroup.com.


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