4 Ways to Ensure a Smooth Transition to EHRs

EdwardKeiperPlan, Expect, Anticipate, and Ask

By Edward Keiper, President and CEO of Velocity

It’s funny how the less you know about something, the easier it seems. Take the transition to electronic health records (EHRs), for example. It may not sound like a big deal to people who aren’t in the healthcare industry. After all, it’s only a matter of taking information from a paper file and entering it into an electronic file. Doesn’t sound so hard.

But medical practices that have already begun the transition know that it’s not nearly that simple.

However, there are some things providers can do to ease the process. Here are four suggestions for a smoother transition.

1.   Plan for Human Obstacles

One of the biggest obstacles practices are likely to face is resistance from staffers. That is, many people are resistant to change and will balk at being asked to do things in a new way.

It’s a smart idea to have a kickoff meeting to set the tone of the transition. Managers should acknowledge that the change may be uncomfortable, but add that it will ultimately make everyone’s lives easier.

Employers can point out that the transition also presents an opportunity to fix some workflow issues that may have been less than ideal in the past. Staffers may take more ownership of the transition if they’re asked to for their input.

2.   Expect Some Time in Limbo

Obviously, it will take some time to get mountains of paper records converted to electronic data. That means that most practices will experience a time when staffers will have to use a hybrid record system, entering new information into the electronic records while still referring to older, paper records. The key is to continue to collect and maintain patient information during this time.

Providers may want to ask their schedulers to add a few minutes to each appointment to allow extra time to input new information. It may also be useful to ask schedulers to explain the transition to patients at the time the appointment is made. That way, patients will understand that their visits may involve some extra steps.

3.   Anticipate Inconsistences

Practitioners that have already started the transition to EHRs have probably noticed that not all the information from paper records may fit cleanly into electronic records. That is, checkboxes or limited options for certain fields may prove complicated when translating pages of handwritten notes.

In those cases, providers should have staffers scan documents to maintain the original information. If certain inconsistencies pop up repeatedly, practitioners should talk with their IT partners about how to best capture this information.

4.   Make it Manageable – and Ask for Help

While providers may eventually want to ensure that all patient records are completely converted to EHRs, it might be best to break down the data transfer into phases. To start, limit conversions to one year of past patient history.

Working with an experienced IT partner that has shepherded other practices through the EHR transition can help ensure a successful transition. Providers should engage with their IT vendors to map out transition steps based on best practices.

This article was originally published in the Velocity blog and is republished here with permission.