Three Tips For EHR Transitions

Posted on May 20, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Moving a medical practice from paper to an EHR is no picnic.  Staff and physicians both may find the process difficult, and the changes they have to make to be threatening. But there are approaches you can take which can make the process easier.  Here’s a nice triad of suggestions from EHR implementation manager Amanda Guerrero:

* Make workflow changes gradual:

Too often, medical practices assume that they can implement an EHR without making major changes to their workflow.  The reality is, however, that many processes which worked fine on paper don’t work when you switch to using EHRs, Guerrero notes. So how do you go about making changes without upsetting and confusing staff and clinicians?  The idea, she says, is to make sure changes happen gradually. Giving people time to adapt to changes helps a lot with staff morale. (It doesn’t hurt to explain how the changes will benefit both staff and patients, either.)

Ask for feedback:

Bearing in mind that changes to workflow will have to be made, how do you choose which changes come first? One way, Guerrero says, is to ask the people who are using the EHR which processes are slowing things down the most.  Be sure, she recommends, to include doctors, nurses, front desk and even billing staff in collecting feedback — after all, virtually any part of the practice can be affected by the EHR.  Once you’ve figured out which areas are the most troublesome, arrange them in order of importance so you can take them on in the most effective manner.

Educate patients:

Now that Meaningful Use has pushed practices into making patient health data available to them, it’s time to encourage them to use it. That being said, patients may be overwhelmed by the amount of data being presented, especially when interpreting lab results, Guerrero suggests.  To reduce the impact of this change on patients, and avoid confusion, make sure you help them understand what they’re looking at and how it can help them improve their healthy, she says. And make sure let patients know you’re available to help answer questions.