It’s Not Me, It’s You: Breaking Up With Your EHR

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If you feel like you’re spending more waking hours with your electronic health record (EHR) than with your significant other, you’re probably right. According to the American Medical Association, family physicians spend an average of 5.9 hours (out of an 11.4-hour workday) in their EHR documenting notes and completing tasks.
Given the amount of time you spend together, you would think your EHR relationship would be a strong, healthy one. However, Medical Economics’ 2016 EHR Report Card highlights that 60% of ambulatory EHR system users dislike or feel neutral about their system and 50% say they wouldn’t recommend their system to a colleague. But despite these high levels of dissatisfaction, only 15% of respondents were even considering switching systems given the time and effort required is a significant deterrent.
Change is tough, but when your system can support your practice and help you navigate the changes in the healthcare industry, it’s worth it.  

Seven Tips to Starting a New EHR Relationship

Breakups hurt, but there are ways to make it easier. These seven tips can help you succeed in adopting a new technology.

Tip One: Consider Your Options

Look beyond the visit workflow to find a platform that can capture data from various sources (patients, claims, registries, etc.) and use that data to automate tasks and follow-ups.  Also, look for a system that interfaces with other platforms so you can access data from a multitude of sources; having more data on your patients helps you provide better care. A robust patient portal can also activate your population and encourage them to engage in their own care.
Healthcare often follows the 80/20 rule. Finding a system that can automate the 80% of typical scenarios will allow you to focus on the 20% that requires more energy. Finding efficiencies through automation  is critical to providing high-quality, patient-centered care.

Tip Two: Establish Timelines and Engage Key Stakeholders

Choose a go-live date and then plot out the big benchmarks: data migration, workflow development, staff training, etc. Assign someone to keep the team on track to meet the go-live timeline. The technology you choose will be a critical component in your practice, so having input from all players is the best way to ensure the system is properly configured and universally adopted.

Tip Three: Map Out the Data Transfer Process

You may be able to convert patient information from one system to the next. If you are getting data from your vendor, make sure to reference your existing contract to determine if there is a cost associated. Alternatively, you can manually move information from one system to the next. Turning your current system to a “read-only” setting can reduce costs. Then you can systematically bring over necessary information as you see patients. It is key to work in advance of your schedule and stick to a predefined process.
Patients can also do some data entry themselves. The patient knows their own family history best. It is perfectly reasonable to ask them to fill out forms online. Look for a system that enables form integration directly into the clinical chart.
Bonus Tip: Instead of entering data points from the patient’s problem list, medications, allergies, and vaccines one-by-one, you may be able to utilize Continuity of Care Documents (CCD files). All systems have the ability to generate XML documents (a requirement to be MU certified), and they can be used to import structured histories into your new EHR.

Tip Four: Clean House

Switching EHRs is your chance to eliminate clutter and reorganize. When pulling data from your old system, consider what information you actually (and legally) need. Make a list of all the documents and data you want to transfer into your new system and then clearly communicate with your staff or vendors how your historical data should be imported.

Tip Five: Training, Training, Training

Training is critical. Before your staff completes end-user training (EUT), reevaluate your current processes and make updates. Partner with a technology platform that incorporates your feedback and designs curriculum based on your needs and workflows. Reinforcing best practice workflows and documentation practices is key to the success of the new EHR.
EUT may be the first time your staff is introduced to the system. Communicate the reasons you are making the switch and the ultimate benefits of doing so. In my experience, engagement in training directly correlates to the success of an implementation and will significantly accelerate the post-live learning curve.

Tip Six: Reduce Appointments

When the time comes to make the switch to your new system, scale back on appointments. Try 50-70% during the first week. Take the extra time to develop good habits from the start.

Tip Seven: Don’t Look Back

Always set a firm transition date. This is the date you will absolutely stop documenting in your old system and operate primarily in the new system. You need to be willing to discard your old relationship; let it go! Be sure to communicate to all staff the expectations around how their responsibilities may change.

Give It Time: Developing Your New Relationship

EHR transition can be tough but time will allow you to develop natural rhythms and work out kinks in the system. You’ll quickly be able to access important information and have a familiarity with layouts and workflows. Use these tips and don’t give up–I promise it will get better!
Your EHR is only one aspect of running a successful practice. You are likely seeing the shifts to value-based care in the healthcare landscape and want to prepare your practice. Privia Medical Group is a physician-led organization that provides resources (including a comprehensive technology platform) to help you bring more value to patients and your business, and we won’t tell you how to practice medicine or run your show.
Interested? We invite you to learn more by watching this 2 minute video.

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