3 Best Practices for EMR and EHR IT Projects

U.S. healthcare organizations’ adoption of electronic medical record (EMR) and electronic health record (EHR) systems has been expanding since the HITECH Act was passed in 2009.

With the 2015 deadline for adoption looming, many providers that need to comply are accelerating timelines for EHR projects. Others, meanwhile, are simply investing in the technology to improve staff efficiency and improve the quality of patient care.

IT teams, of course, are under pressure to roll out EMR and EHR systems on time and on budget, and ensure users have all the necessary features and support. The good news? Because many organizations have already traveled this road in recent years, IT leaders can look to their best practices and lessons learned to help ensure implementation success. Here are some examples:

1. Engage users early and take time to understand their specific needs.

“Meaningful use” of an EMR or EHR system can’t be achieved if clinicians don’t use it in their work every day. Of course, successful adoption of any IT solution requires that users find the technology easy to use and relevant to their needs. Users also must be able to realize tangible benefits, such as time saving. This is why user engagement must start early; otherwise, IT may not implement all the features they need.

Success story: Lifespace Communities, Inc., an independent and senior living provider, had to overcome users’ resistance to change before it could roll out an EHR system. It involved employees in planning and change management from the outset, and took time to understand their current workflows. This allowed Lifespace to create processes, documentation and timelines tailored to each of its 10 retirement communities, without derailing its 16-month implementation deadline.

2. Think proactively about user training.

Users need to be set up for success post-rollout. Potential barriers to adoption of the EMR or EHR system — including employees’ lack of technical skills or limited IT resources available to provide staff training — therefore should be identified and addressed in the planning stages of the implementation.

Success story: Norton County Hospital, a medical facility in rural Kansas, considered the IT literacy of its staff members before integrating an EHR solution. The provider made sure employees could practice using the system during implementation, even setting up a designated training room with computers and encouraging “super users” to help train other staff. Once the solution was rolled out, hospital staff were able to adapt smoothly to the new workflows and access critical patient information quickly.

3. Align IT talent with specialized skills.

IT specialists who understand not only the nuances of a particular EHR or EMR system, but also exactly how users need that solution to support their daily work, can make all the difference in the ultimate success of an implementation.

Success story: Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center was one of the first academic healthcare institutions to launch EHR software in all departments, specialties and locations at once, while also moving from a legacy system. To help ensure a smooth transition, it took care to hire and retain IT personnel familiar with workflows in EHR processes. With an experienced team in place, IT leadership was better equipped to provide medical personnel with an effective solution, including tools for collaboration and fast access to patient data.

Implementing EMR or EHR technology is a step many healthcare providers are taking not only to meet compliance demands but also to enhance efficiency. By applying lessons learned by other organizations, your IT team can successfully integrate systems that can help medical staff improve the quality of patient care.