Get a Fresh Perspective on Your EHR

Bailey Sutherland, In-Practice Technology Services Associate Electronic Health Records (EHR)

EHR systems

Your EHR system is the engine that runs your practice. While EHR systems offer huge potential in terms of efficiency and workflow optimization, many practices never realize the full benefits. In fact, about 60% of physicians report feeling less than satisfied with their current EHR system. Before you decide to switch vendors or upgrade to a different system, you might want to simply get a second opinion on your existing EHR system. With a little effort and a few minor changes, you may gain a new appreciation for your EHR system and all that it can deliver for your practice.

Here are a few reasons you might benefit from a fresh perspective on your EHR system:

  1. Rushed Implementation. Implementing an EHR system is a huge undertaking. There is never a good time to turn your office upside down and start over with a new system. Even with the best laid plans, many practices end up rushing to get it all done in time. When your team is under a time crunch, it is almost impossible to make thoughtful decisions about how to use your EHR system and redesign workflows. 
  1. Staff Bias. We all bring our own biases and opinions to every project. While having staff with deep knowledge of internal processes can help with the implementation, it can also limit the team’s ability to see the potential for change that the system can bring. Allowing an outside expert to come in and evaluate your current EHR use and help plan for optimization is something that can change the course for the better.
  1. Insufficient Training. While most EHR vendors offer training to the implementation team and some level of technical support, it is not always enough to prepare your team for the complex configuration decisions that need to be made. Without a detailed knowledge of the new EHR system and its capabilities, your team may not be able to fully leverage all the functionality and integration potential.
  1. Decision Fatigue. Looking at an out of the box product, the number of customizations that are available for any EHR system can be overwhelming. In the heat of the implementation, it is easy for the team to lose focus. It takes time to figure out how an EHR solution can best fit your needs. Having an expert to walk you through the process of customization and show you how to use add-on features can make all the difference.

As the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. After using your EHR system for a few months, or even a few years, you will find that there are many ways to make it perform better. Consulting an outside expert can help you to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of everyone on your team, from your front office staff to the physicians. And you will also see improved morale and satisfaction among your team members.

The first step in any EHR optimization project is to conduct a thorough evaluation of the current system. This includes looking at the people, the processes and workflows, the goals of the organization, and of course the technology at hand. A knowledgeable consultant will take time to understand the key areas of dissatisfaction from multiple perspectives within the practice, including physicians, administrative staff, care teams and executive staff.

Once you understand the areas of dissatisfaction, the next step will be to prioritize the areas that you would like to work on. Those items with the highest level of dissatisfaction and those areas impacting the largest number of people are usually a good place to start. A consultant can help you hone in on your priority areas and make some decisions about the best ways to tackle them.

It is important to assign an internal project lead from your organization to work closely with the external consultant to develop your EHR optimization plan. Most practices assign a project team that includes a physician champion, a member of the executive staff, an office manager, and a nurse or medical assistant. Having these individuals involved will help the consultants to keep the needs of the organization in mind and will increase internal staff buy-in for the project.

EHR optimization may sound like another system implementation

EHR optimization is actually much simpler than it seems. You have already invested so much in the technology. The EHR system optimization process is going to help you to maximize your investment. The first step is choosing a trusted expert with deep knowledge of EHR systems, configuration options and best practices.