Converting from paper-based to electronic medical records (EMR) is rewarding for health care providers and patients alike but can be extremely complex (*See right)
With faster, more complete and secure access to information providers can expect significant improvements in operations and patient care. Additionally, EMR (also known as electronic health records or EHR, although there is a technical difference) can provide you with varying degrees of convenient interaction among patients, providers, hospitals, laboratories and pharmacies to improve patient care. The EMR implementation process requires substantial planning and subsequent staff training, including key considerations such as:
Phase 1: EMR Planning
- Software Selection— there are hundreds of software packages available based on the size of your practice, the practice specialty, whether the platform is cloud based (on the Internet) or locally installed, internal and external communications and data exchange capabilities and many other features. Choosing the proper software at the onset can prevent costly errors.
- End User Equipment Requirements —multiple factors go into deciding on the type of equipment needed and where it should be located. Determine the number of end users you expect to have access, including providing for expansion, if appropriate. Decide on the locations where your equipment will be installed, including workstations and mobile devices(such as a notebook or on a cart).
- IT Infrastructure — don’t overlook stress your new EMR system will have on the physical network, servers and storage. This aspect of planning your EMR implementation process if most often overlooked and leads to the most project failures. Factors such as bandwidth, remote site connectivity and application priority are critical to a successful implementation.
Phase 2: Change Management
Following this initial planning stage, a successful EMR implementation process requires integrating staff workflow with the technology. In many cases, this will require significant retraining and hands-on practice before the system goes live. Depending on the size of your practice, you should designate an individual or team to oversee the EMR implementation process. Goals of this phase include:
- Educating staff on new processes involved in electronic record keeping.
- Adjusting clinical workflows for practice functions, including for prescriptions and lab tests.
- Providing sufficient training to promote staff confidence in the system and their ability to take full advantage of its capabilities.
Phase 3: Implementation
The EMR implementation process is by no means an easy task, and it requires a substantial commitment from you and your staff. The benefits are many, however, including improved patient care, increased efficiency and, ultimately, reduced costs. Because of the complexity of installing an electronic records system, you may consider hiring a consultant who specializes in the EMR implementation process.