How to keep your practice running during EHR replacement

A 2015 survey conducted by market research firm KLAS showed that “27 percent of medical practices are planning to replace their current EHR system, and another 12 percent want to but can’t, due to financial constraints.” Given that well over a third of EHR users could replace their EHR in immediate future it bears mentioning that the replacement process, much like the initial adoption process if conducted properly can lessen some of the common headaches associated with an implementation such as increased security risk, lost productivity, lack of staff buy-in and revenue declines. The following five tips could potentially reduce the risk of problems associated with the EHR replacement process.

1. Have an EHR replacement plan

Much like the process of initial EHR implementation the success of the replacement process depends on having a well-established plan. A well-established plan can provide both a primary plan (to be used under a best-case scenario) and a contingency plan (to be used in the event of problems with implementation and rollout of the replacement system). The former should include a tentative implementation timeline and checklist of tasks. The latter should include a list of what if scenarios which most importantly includes a data and system back up plan if something goes awry.    

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2. Involve stakeholders in the planning and implementation process

Best practices dictate that when implementing an EHR stakeholder’s input should be considered. Not only does this give an organization the opportunity to plan from a variety of vantage points it also assists in the buy-in process, particularly among contingents who may not be fully invested in the idea of a replacement EHR.     

3. Be wary of data migration issues

One of the main concerns related to switching to a new system relates to migrating data to the new EHR. Data migration should be done internally, by a third party or in some cases a vendor will offer assistance with data migration to their system, or you may have to hire a third-party vendor to help with the data extraction and migration. In this phase it is It is important to backup data before transferring the data. Further, it is important to review security measures in place while migrating data to ensure that personal health information is not placed at unnecessary risk.

4. Account for lost productivity by managing workflow disruption

Some level of productivity loss is inevitable during EHR replacement. However, the level of productivity loss can be managed when understanding how the switchover process will affect workflows and thus productivity is crucial.  In some cases, a replacement EHR, may be similar to the previous system. Therefore, the disruption to workflows will likely not be significant as would be found with a highly dissimilar system. However, one aspect of replacement that is unavoidable involves the actual replacement of the system and data migration. In this case, practices should, if possible schedule replacement during slower periods of activity and conduct installation and migration incrementally rather than conducting the entire replacement at the same time.  

5. Level out the learning curves with training

In theory, the learning curve for experienced EHR users switching to a new system should be less drastic when compared to the initial adoption process. The amount and type of training needed will depend on the differences between the previous system and the replacement system. Differences in data input, how the interface works and other operations features should be included in the training.  

The problems that can occur when replacing an EHR mirror the same issues that a practice may have faced when initially adopting an EHR. However when replacing practices have the benefit of experience having gone through the implementation process previously. With planning based on knowledge from previous experience the common problems that arise in implementation can be minimized if not avoided.

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Jeff Green

About the author…

Jeff Green, MPH, JD works as a freelance writer and consultant in the Healthcare information Technology Space.

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Jeff Green