Top 5 EMR Adoption Challenges

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By Ron Stephenson on May 25, 2016

EMR Reporting

EMR Adoption ChallengesThe secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”- Socrates, Greek philosopher

According to Merriam-Webster, the simple definition of change is “to become different.” That definition, however, does not take into account the myriad of feelings and challenges associated that come with it. With the rapidly growing healthcare IT industry introducing new technologies at a fast pace, healthcare professionals often have to familiarize themselves with new products as they strive to improve patient health while already performing time-consuming tasks.

One big change that has occurred at many healthcare facilities across the country is the adoption of EMR systems. Whether it’s to comply with Meaningful Use or transition away from paper records – or both – these facilities have faced a number of challenges while implementing their new system. Before deciding on which EMR to install or when to do it, it’s important to know these top five challenges of adopting a new system:

  • Time and Cost

There are numerous costs when implementing an EMR including hardware, software, additional IT and other resources, training and ongoing support. Although the benefits provided through an EMR should ultimately outweigh these costs, healthcare facilities may struggle to obtain the upfront resources (financial and personnel) necessary for the investment. This is especially true for smaller facilities. Even though cost can be a big barrier, adopting an EMR should provide a high ROI by preserving critical patient information, increasing workflow efficiency and ultimately providing the information necessary to improve the overall operational efficiency in all phases of the hospital business.

No matter how prepared a healthcare organization is to implement an EMR, the time it takes to do so can be a major barrier. Healthcare organizations don’t want to see a decrease in revenue and productivity or disrupt the workflow of their employees, especially physicians and front line clinicians. Switching from paper-based to an electronic system requires an investment of time and resources, and organizations can experience an array of problems if they don’t plan accordingly.

Before the implementation begins, healthcare organizations should plan to minimize a loss in productivity during the implementation and develop steps to quickly return to pre-implementation productivity levels when it’s complete. This can be done through strategic planning, staff training schedules and new workflows designed to maximize time. The better prepared an organization is for this process, the easier the transition.

  • Implementing Electronic Workflows

Although EMR systems are designed to streamline workflow, improve the quality of patient care and increase efficiency, the complex implementation process can have the exact opposite effect on operational efficiency if the correct planning is not done beforehand. Every healthcare organization has unique needs. Processes and workflows in the new EMR should be customized to reflect that.

A workflow analysis is a must when implementing an EMR system. By reviewing and documenting existing processes and organization-specific data, healthcare organizations can adequately prepare for the implementation to eliminate sizable workflow disruptions, improve productivity and easily access the appropriate data. The employees who will be using the new EMR should be able to provide input, and the chosen vendor should be able to provide in-depth demonstrations of the system’s features, functionality and forms.

During the pre-implementation and design phases, team members from all departments and service areas, IT application builders and representatives from the vendor system should engage in an iterative process of meeting to discuss requirements, reviewing the build and testing the workflows until the system is meeting the needs of those that will use it on a daily basis.  

  • Executive Support

Executive support (C-level, physician leadership and management)  is critical to high EMR adoption and implementation success rates. Cultural and procedural changes are a given part of any major EMR implementation. Ground level and technical staff need the support of upper-tier management in order to initiate the changes that are commonly required to fit into the defined models of vendor developed software systems. This sometimes means pushing back against the instinct to implement the new system to fit into an existing workflow, instead changing the workflow to better fit what the system does well.

Consider an example where a provider currently receives an email each morning listing his/her patient rounding schedule. However, the new system provides a mobile interface to the same list. The provider’s instinct may be to ask to continue to receive the emailed list; however, viewing the rounding list on his/her phone, in real time would likely be a better use of the technology. In that scenario, having a physician in a senior leadership role supporting this change can make all the difference in how this change is received and adopted.
  • Training

Utilizing the most effective training for employees experiencing an EMR implementation is an integral part of its success. Though the time necessary for appropriate training before, during and after an implementation can be substantial. Not including it in the process can be very costly. Without thorough training, employees may misuse the EMR or not use it at all.

Every employee who will utilize the EMR – physicians, nurses, IT staff and others – should be involved in training for the new system. Organizations should designate “superusers” to guide the implementation training effort. These are employees from each of the different departments and service areas who have a deeper system knowledge and are given the time to support their peers throughout the implementation process. They can encourage other employees about using the new EMR and demonstrate its benefits and uses in a meaningful context. Beyond “elbow-to-elbow” training and support, videos and detailed training materials should be made available to employees. The most successful implementations adopt a strategy of continuous education for their superusers and employees on a regular basis.  

  • Privacy and Security

As with any industry responsible for the capture, storage and exchange of highly confidential and personal information, privacy and security are major concerns for healthcare entities. It is especially critical that healthcare organizations guard their EMR technology against data breaches, loss of data and lack of compliance with HIPAA regulations. These are especially serious concerns because of the patient health records at risk and potential negative impact to the organization when a failure does occur. Healthcare organizations should only consider implementing an EMR whose vendor has stringent privacy and security standards in place and is able to enhance administrative controls, has dynamic auditing and monitoring capabilities and has data encryption capabilities. EMR vendors are bound by strict mandates for meeting security capabilities, but understanding those capabilities and fitting them into the existing network security framework is a critical component of implementing an EMR.

Let Us Help

Syntrix Consulting team members have been assisting healthcare organizations with EMR implementations since our company was founded. While the strength of our expertise is focused on the Business Intelligence, Analytics and Reporting aspects of an EMR implementation, the experience we’ve gained through multiple implementations allows us to provide insights and guidance in the many phases of planning and developing strategies around EMR implementation. Contact us to learn how we can help with your EMR implementation.

For more information on Epic reporting and how you can ensure a successful implementation, download our FREE eBook: 

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