1.   Recognize that paper charting systems dictate work flows and even how we think.  Paper forms train you to enter data in a certain way.  Whether conscious or not, your paper charts will influence how you view prospective Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems.  Try to find an EHR that looks similar to your paper charts, but recognize computer-based forms will require you to change.

2.   Recognize that paper-based work flows are not as efficient as computer-based systems.  Your staff spends a certain amount of time everyday pulling, filing, and even searching for misplaced charts.  Add time spent printing, faxing, scanning, collating, and stapling, and realize much of this unnecessary work will vanish with EHR.

3.   EHR can eliminate many inefficient work flows and help increase productivity.  However, recognize that you will encounter bumps along the road to implementation.  Stay the course, and the benefits will be well worth the temporary frustrations.

4.   Your practice will have to make a conscious decision to use the EHR.  Some may resist for a variety of reasons:  lack of computer skills, fear of change, lack of training, etc.  Even the best EHR system is worthless if you don’t achieve buy-in and participation from your staff and providers.

5.   Achieving buy-in is a complex, yet crucial step to successful implementation.  Educate your practice about the benefits of EHR.  Get them to look at the inefficiencies of the current paper-based system.  Show them ways EHR will make their life easier using specific examples.

6.   Make an honest list of your current “pain points,” or inefficiencies, gripes, snags, or other frustrations caused by your paper-based system.  Be sure to address these concerns with your EHR vendor.  Ask them how their software will address each of your issues.

7.   Understand that you may encounter resistance and a desire to return to the old paper-based system during implementation.  Determine the specific causes of resistant attitudes and address those concerns openly and honestly.  Address any issues during implementation with your EHR vendor.  Once your staff knows you value their opinion, they will be more willing to proceed.

8.   Be patient and persistent.  Recognize that implementing EHR is a non-trivial process.  How long it takes depends on the size and complexity of your practice.  Make your purchase decision during the first quarter of 2012, so you will have plenty of time to implement your EHR and achieve stimulus funds this year.

9.   Constantly look for ways to improve the system.  No EHR is perfect.  You will encounter some parts of the EHR that need immediate attention before implementation can proceed.  The needs of your practice will also change over time.  Ask your EHR vendor how they can change their software to meet your immediate and long term needs.

10.   Share your success stories with your EHR vendor and your colleagues.  Were your providers able to decrease the length of their workday, increase revenues through appropriate coding, or achieve stimulus?  Everyone will be excited to hear how you have benefited from your EHR implementation.

If your practice is interested in participating in the HITECH Stimulus program, please join us for a web presentation on how one of our rheumatology practices received Medicare stimulus funds.  Sign up on the web at http://www.xlemr.com/webinar.html.

Ryan Ricks
Security Officer