Looking Beyond EHR Go-Live: The Value of Continual Optimization
Many EHR vendors have developed implementation methodologies which leverage years of their collective clients’ experience to define “best practice” workflows and clinical content. These approaches are often valuable as they streamline the design/build processes. However, very few healthcare organizations I have worked with are exactly the same. Differences in culture, governance, size, ownership, hospital alignment, patient and payer populations, along with practice management and IT sophistication make a “one size fits all” approach less practical over the long term.
To complicate the EHR implementation decision making process further, medical groups are frequently required to make workflow and application design/build decisions concurrently with their vendor learning curve. Said otherwise, they are often not educated by their vendors about their full options and the downstream benefits/impacts of different options. As such, those downstream impacts are not recognized until after go-live.
Lastly, it is not practical or cost-effective to remediate every user’s concerns or preference during the implementation process. This would elongate the implementation timeline and explode the EHR budget. As such, medical groups need to make trade-offs between what are pre-requisites for go-live and what workflow or functionality can be fine-tuned after go-live.
These are a few examples of why healthcare organizations suffer from EHR project fatigue. While the implementation may end, on-going optimization is really what enables practices to leverage EHR functionality to improve quality and physician productivity.
The work never seems to end after go-live. Add to this list upgrades, clinical documentation enhancement, and training to support government regulations such as Meaningful Use Stage 2 and ICD-10. All of this requires resources and funding after go-live.
Governance will play an increasing role in how organizations prioritize all of the projects that compete for resources. Strong clinical leadership is essential for establishing standards related to quality and productivity. IT leadership will be tasked with organizing and managing projects based on budgets and timelines.
There is no abrupt end to EHR implementation. Optimization comes with continued refinements as physicians experience the system and see ways the EHR can address their unique needs. With strong clinical leadership, clear governance and a flexible vendor implementation approach, you can realize an ongoing, interactive process that paves the way for a successful future.
Brad Boyd is vice president of sales and marketing for Culbert Healthcare Solutions.