Electronic health record (EHR) systems adoption is becoming more of a necessity and requirement rather than a mere recommendation and in some countries is even regulated by the government (e.g. in the US and the UK). According to the NHS healthcare digital transformation plans for the upcoming years, all integrated care systems (ICSs) and 80 percent of social care organizations must implement EHR solutions by 2025.
EHR systems offer numerous benefits, including increased efficiency, improved patient safety, and enhanced data accuracy. However, implementing an EHR system requires you to come up with a detailed execution plan to ensure a successful transition. In this article, we will discuss the seven stages of EHR implementation.
Step 1: Assessing your organization’s needs
The first step you should take is to perform a complete evaluation of your healthcare organization’s needs. This involves evaluating your current workflow and processes, identifying pain points, and determining your goals and objectives for EHR development or integration. It is crucial to involve key stakeholders, such as clinicians, administrators, and IT staff, to gather insights into their requirements and expectations from the EHR system. This assessment will serve as the foundation for the entire EHR implementation process, providing a clear understanding of what needs to be achieved and how the EHR system can address those needs.
Step 2: Planning and preparation
Once you have assessed your organization’s needs, the next step is to create a comprehensive implementation plan. An EHR implementation plan should include timelines, milestones, and team composition. It should also outline the necessary resources, such as budget, personnel, and infrastructure, required for a successful implementation. Educating staff and stakeholders about the benefits and expectations of EHR implementation is also crucial during this step. Planning and preparation are critical to ensure the implementation process is organized, efficient, and aligned with the organization’s goals.
Step 3: Selecting an EHR vendor
Selecting the right EHR vendor is a crucial step in the implementation process. It is essential to research and evaluate different EHR vendors based on your organization’s needs and budget. Some of the key players on the market are Cerner, Epic, NextGen, Allscripts, Athenahealth, and Greenway. One of the critical aspects you should consider when choosing an EHR vendor is where their system can be hosted, on-premises, or in the cloud. On-premises deployment is still a common practice for EHR vendors, but as stated in the Deloitte 2023 healthcare outlook report, the trend for the cloud is encouraging large EHR vendors to transition their products and services to the cloud.
You can also request a demo presentation of the EHR solution to analyze its usability and functionality. Site visits and references from other organizations using the same EHR system can also provide valuable insights. It is important to thoroughly review contracts and negotiate terms and conditions with the selected vendor to ensure the agreement meets your requirements and expectations.
Step 4: System configuration and customization
When you know your EHR vendor, your next task is to configure and customize the system to align with your company’s workflows and processes. Collaborate closely with the EHR vendor to ensure that the system is set up to meet your organization’s specific needs. This may involve defining system interfaces with other healthcare systems, such as laboratory or pharmacy systems, and conducting extensive testing and quality assurance to ensure that the system is functioning effectively and efficiently. System configuration and customization are critical to ensure the EHR system can seamlessly integrate into your existing workflows.
Step 5: Medical staff training and education
Effective training of medical staff is essential for successfully implementing an EHR system. Users of your EHR system can be clinicians, nurses, and administrative workers. The training should cover all aspects of the EHR system, including its critical functionality, proper documentation practices, data entry, and system navigation. Training sessions can be conducted through various methods, such as on-site training, webinars, and online tutorials. It is crucial to ensure that all users are proficient in using the EHR system before the go-live date.
Step 6: Deployment and post-implementation support
Deploying an EHR system is a critical phase that requires careful planning and coordination. It involves the actual release of the EHR system in the production environment, with real patient data. This step requires closely monitoring the system to identify and tackle any issues or challenges that may arise. Post-implementation support is also crucial to provide ongoing assistance to users and ensure that the system is functioning optimally. This may include troubleshooting, addressing user concerns, and providing timely updates and enhancements to the system. A dedicated support team can provide quick and effective system support during and after the go-live phase.
Step 7: Continuous improvement
The implementation of an EHR system is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process. Continuous improvement is crucial to ensure that the system is constantly updated and optimized to meet the changing needs of the organization and the evolving healthcare landscape. Continuous improvement initiatives can include regular analysis of the system performance, gathering user feedback, and identifying areas for further system enhancements. It is important to have a governance structure in place to oversee the EHR system’s performance and drive continuous improvement initiatives. Regular system updates, patches, and enhancements should be implemented to ensure the EHR system remains secure, compliant, and aligned with the organization’s goals and objectives.
Integrating an EHR system into your healthcare workflow is a complex and challenging process that requires careful preparation and execution as well as an ongoing commitment. By following the seven effective steps outlined in this article, healthcare organizations can successfully implement an EHR system and reap its benefits. However, it is important to note that each organization’s EHR implementation journey may vary, and it is crucial to tailor the process to the unique needs of your organization by cooperating with a trusted software development company. With thorough planning, diligent execution, and continuous improvement efforts, healthcare organizations can achieve a successful implementation of electronic medical records that enhances patient care, improves operational efficiency, and promotes better health outcomes.