When EMR/EHR implementation fails, many are quick to point fingers at the operating system itself, and make rash conclusions that all health IT is inherently “bad,” destined for failure. However, technology may not be the only thing at fault here. Human variables can strongly influence the success or failure of EMR/EHR implementation. The most common of these human variables is neglecting to complete a thorough practice/medical facility cultural and operational assessment prior to EMR/EHR selection and implementation.

A cultural assessment considers the goals, mission, and vision of a medical practice. Analyzing these components will help one realize what they are working towards, and how an EMR/EHR system could help achieve, and perhaps exceed, these goals. A cultural assessment will help a practice align a specific EMR/EHR system to meet their individual needs, and also define specific leaders within the organization to guide staff through the process of change.

An operational assessment measures the maturity of the processes, measurement systems and data systems in an organization. This assessment will help predict pitfalls in EMR/EHR adoption, as it identifies deficits in organizational management, communication, and procedures.  Has your practice tried to implement change before, but could not gain complete staff and/or patient compliance? Why? If the root cause of systemic practice problems is not addressed before EMR/EHR adoption, history is bound to repeat itself.

An operational assessment will also examine workflow efficiency and measurement systems. It is important to audit to identify inefficiencies, and look for an EMR/EHR to specifically address those concerns. An EMR/EHR could greatly assist in measuring gains in efficiency; but first, it is important to determine what you want to improve and how you want to measure it.

Technology is widely helpful and “smart,” but it can’t do all of the work. Humans still need to be big players in the game. Physicians and medical offices need to truly examine their current culture and organizational processes to identify what they want out of an EMR/EHR system, and have the communication and operating systems in place to then implement it successfully.