Slideshow 5 Lessons for Effective EHR Project Management

  • September 12 2014, 8:37pm EDT
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Implementing a new electronic health record is a monumental task for any healthcare organization. These projects are expensive, with aggressive timelines many moving parts bring significant changes. Many providers create a project management office (PMO) responsible for ensuring success. PMOs vary greatly in size and sophistication, says Stephen Crossmon, project executive of professional services at consultancy Beacon Partners, but all should assist with the same core responsibilities.

<B>Scope and Issues Management</B>

Scope and issues management truly go hand in hand. A PMO must have effective tools in place to escalate issues to the appropriate governance committee or workgroups. The tools should be able to track which committee should make the decision, the status, and how it’s communicated after the decision is made. Besides keeping the project on track, this formal sign-off provides a strong audit trail and is also important for user adoption. That’s because every decision – including who made it and why – is documented.

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<B>Project Plan Development and Maintenance</B>

EHR vendors have the experience of doing many implementations for multiple clients. So it’s important to leverage their project plan templates and best practices. But it's important to note that these projects will require multiple plans for different purposes starting with an extremely detailed plan. This would track every task and work stream. For example, Epic has a week-by-week build tracker. You’ll also need higher level milestone plans that report the status of major phases of build or testing – a rollup of the more detailed plan. These plans are ideal for team meetings to review where you are and what’s coming next. Finally, you’ll need a higher-level (one-pager) to report status to senior executives.

<B>Status Tracking and Associated Reporting</B>

Keeping track of the thousands of tasks involved in an EHR implementation is a key role for any PMO. Status tracking – or widget tracking – should provide a quick view of the status of building and testing and it should be measured against the original timeline.  An effective way to illustrate the status for executives is to use a dashboard of gas gauges (see example to the right). It provides a quick view on how the team is progressing against the original goals. You can also post these dashboards in an area where all of the teams can see them. This is a great way to ensure everyone stays on track – because their results are on full display. 

<B>Project Management Methodology Mentorship</B>

The importance of mentorship cannot be understated. Many of the leaders that the PMO will work with to deliver the solution may not have project management as a core competency. For example, you may work closely with the Manager of Inpatient Orders who is a former registered nurse. Although this person brings a lot to the table in terms of clinical workflow knowledge, they may not have project management skills. It’s important for the PMO to mentor these leaders on the details of the methodology and the importance of status tracking and reporting work. They in turn will serve as project management champions in the organization.

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<B>Staffing Additional Project Managers as Needed</B>

Inevitably, sub-projects will come up during an EHR implementation that may require additional project managers. The PMO can help staff these roles. For example, many hospitals will need to work on clinical device integration – ensuring that all devices used to capture patient care information are connected to the EHR. This usually involves working with an outside vendor to provide the middleware between the devices and the EHR. This is a significant deployment and will need a project manager to ensure it’s done correctly and on time. This is just one example; there are many others that will come up during the course of the project.

<B>Dive Deeper</B>

No two EHR implementations are the same; and therefore no two PMOs will operate the exact same way. But these core responsibilities should be universal for every PMO to ensure a successful implementation. To access a Beacon Partners Web seminar digging deeper into PMOs click here . Brief registration is required.