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EHR implementation plan: step-by-step guide

Jan 09, 2023

8 minutes read

Implementing an electronic health record (EHR) will make the clinic more modern and convenient. But if the EHR implementation process is not optimal, the clinic will face difficulties, especially in the short term. Many clinics still rely on paper medical records. Some argue this is a habit; some think the paper is more reliable.

The electronic form of the document can be used in all medical institutions, regardless of the number of patients, the volume of activities, and the staff of specialists: small dental offices, doctors in private practice, multidisciplinary clinics, laboratories, and diagnostic centers.

Electronic health records are rarely a stand-alone solution. As a rule, they are part of medical information systems: programs for the complete automation of workplaces in the clinic. Thanks to the use of templates to fill in many indicators by default and select data from various replenished directories, the entering of new data is greatly simplified and accelerated. The EHR implementation solves the problem of transporting medical records between clinic branches and allows sharing of patient data.

Private clinics get as much out of the system as they are willing to invest in it. You can achieve the maximum benefit from electronic health records if you work with the database and enter information on time. The more information the card contains, the better the system will support interaction with the patient.

What is EHR implementation?

Technically, EHR is a single information resource that allows doctors and patients constant access to the treatment history. The main advantage of EHR implementation is exchanging all patient data between various medical institutions and specialists.

The EHR allows patients and healthcare professionals to skip paper medical records and seek medical services at the most suitable hospitals, regardless of their registration or current residence place.

The advantage of EHR implementation is also the increased patient privacy level. Unlike paper medical records, which can be looked at by any medical or non-medical worker, electronic patient data is only available to well-defined physicians.

In addition, EHR data can be used by insurance companies, health statistics agencies, and other governmental and non-governmental organizations responsible for citizens’ health care.

Related: How to create an EHR: cost, development, features

The electronic medical record fully reflects the patient’s medical history and actions in the clinic. The EHR contains the patient’s passport part, insurance, and medical data. You can quickly find EHR in the electronic database of patients using the search function. Each electronic card is assigned a unique number, which facilitates the search and works with data, and, if necessary, ensures the confidentiality of personal data. The main sections of the electronic health record:

  • history of appeals and visits to a medical institution;
  • medical examination data: complaints, life and disease history, results of a physical examination and measurements of vital signs (pulse, pressure, saturation), diagnosis with an ICD code, treatment;
  • results of additional laboratory and instrumental examinations;
  • completed courses of treatment;
  • diagnoses.

The tools of the electronic medical record allow you to enter any information received from the patient into it: attach the lab results, examinations, advisory opinions, and extracts after inpatient treatment. The patient’s medical history accumulates over time, and the interface of the medical system allows you to move between blocks of information quickly.

How long does EHR implementation take?

An electronic health record will facilitate the work of doctors in many cases. For example, if the patient has lost a paper card, if the patient has an exacerbation of a chronic illness on a business trip, or if an unconscious patient needs urgent medical attention, and doctors do not know either his blood type or allergic reactions to drugs.

It is possible to introduce an electronic medical records system in a single clinic within a few months. Training doctors and other employees to work with the system will take longer.

Benefits of implementing an EHR system

Working with the EHR system, the clinic can:

Be fearless of losing data because it can be copied and stored in several places simultaneously. It is challenging to imagine this with paper carriers. In case of a fire or flood, paper medical records may be lost forever. Also, the paper tends to wear out.

Save on rent. Storing paper records does not take up much space. Still, the clinic is growing, and the number of patients is steadily increasing. In that case, it will be necessary to allocate more and more space for documents because the law obliges storing medical data for many years.

It is easy to share patient data with other medical institutions if it is necessary for treatment.

Simplify the work of clinicians. Modern EHRs allow the doctor to find the information he is interested in, to see the overall picture of the treatment, and not spend a lot of time on the computer but communicate with the patient.

Integrate EHR with a CRM system to facilitate the work of front desk and marketing staff, for example, by automatically tracking effective channels for attracting new patients after EHR implementation.

Steps of the implementation EHR system

The implementation of EHR should be approached responsibly, but the process can be simplified. For successful integration, the clinic will need four stages.

Planning and selection

The success of the entire operation will depend on how well prepared for the process the clinic is. So, the first step in EHR implementation is to make a list of medical record requirements and interview colleagues from different departments and specialties so that you don’t miss anything. Separately, decide on the requirements that do not meet your expectations, for example, if something does not meet state standards.

Armed with a list of required features and requirements, start testing options. Be sure to play with the product’s demo version to see how everything will look and work. Do not rely solely on promotional materials and the advice of colleagues. The same functionality can work differently on different platforms.

Preparation and adaptation

The success of the implementation will largely depend on how well you prepare the team.

What must be done:

Hold a meeting and explain your plans:

  • Why EHR is being introduced.
  • How it will affect the work of the clinic.
  • How the process will be organized.
  • How colleagues will be helped to adapt to the new product.

Coordinate with the developer of the EHR a training plan for personnel. Even if the implemented electronic medical record will be very user-friendly, the team will still need to be trained and receive additional materials with tips and answers to questions. Unified training will help the clinic ensure that every employee is aware of all the nuances and details of working with the EHR, which will improve the work quality.

Prepare a communication plan with patients. The introduction of automation is an essential and helpful process for a medical institution. Please inform patients about the innovations on the website and on social networks and also make a hint for the receptionists so that they can correctly present this news.

Process revision

Any innovations and changes are an excellent reason to reconsider your current activities, eliminate excess, and optimize the rest. Leave unnecessary paperwork, duplicate reporting, and artificially complicated processes in the past. Ask the team for advice if you need help figuring out where to start.

Data migration

If your clinic has never worked with EHR, all data must be entered into the system from scratch. This process takes much longer than we like to think, and it can also be fraught with specific difficulties and missing data. We recommend that you allocate additional time for the migration and be patient.

When moving from one EHR to another, contact the developer for help so that no data gets lost along the way.

Related: EHR Usability: How to Evaluate and Improve

Checklist for implementing EHR

We have prepared a checklist with the essential steps to quickly and efficiently implement EHR in your clinic:

  • Make a list of criteria for a future EHR.
  • Discuss the requirements with the team so that everything is noticed.
  • Compile a list of development companies that will be evaluated and tested in detail.
  • Prepare a training plan for the team.
  • Introduce EHR into the system.
  • Transfer data to a new EHR.
  • Collect feedback on work results for the first 1-2 weeks.

Tips for successful EHR implementation

Announce changes to the clinic in advance. Inform patients that there may be slight delays associated with the transition during a specific period. So you will reduce the pressure on the staff and reduce the risk of negativity on both sides.

Consider risk management. Rarely does a project go perfectly. Take the time to work on potential risks. 

Work only with those medical records that fully comply with the requirements and regulations. No amount of convenience and low cost is worth the fines and risks of losing your license.

Add plus 20% to all your calculations: whether it’s time, the number of people that will need to be involved in the project, or the budget.

The payoff of a fully implemented EHR system

While the benefits of an efficient digital health record system are clear to patients (no paper records, privacy protection, ease of usage of health services, etc.), the benefits of electronic health records may need to be more apparent to physicians. But this is only at first glance.

EHR frees physicians from the day-to-day tasks of filling out heaps of paperwork while also allowing them to generate reports and focus on delivering quality care to their patients.

In just a few clicks, a medical worker can get a patient’s complete medical history and make the right decision regarding his or further treatment. It minimizes the risk of recording errors and wrong decisions due to human error and generally improves the quality of service.

After successful EHR implementation, the patient’s family doctor or attending physician can access the patient’s electronic medical record. If necessary, the doctor can print out a consultation report containing the reason for the visit, diagnosis, treatment appointment, or referral for additional examination. All this is thanks to electronic medical records.

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