Avoid EHR implementation failure by doing these three things

According to the Fox Group, 20% of EHR system installations could be considered a failure. In a vast majority of the cases, the causes that underly an implementation failure could have been mitigated if not entirely prevented by through a rigorous planning process and by accounting for a number of the common problems that plague EHR implementations.

Common causes of implementation failure

If one seeks to create a taxonomy of EHR failure, a number of common reasons for implementation failure can be identified. 

Failure to accurately model costs 

Many practices experience implementation failure based on their failure to model costs that can arise during implementation and afterward. Given the data available on implementations, a sizable majority of practices indicated that financial problems plagued their implementation. Survey data from the MPI Group and Medical Economics indicate 65% of respondents who recently implemented new EHR software say their EHR systems resulted in financial losses for the practice. About 43% of internists and other specialists/subspecialists outside of primary care characterized the losses as significant.

Lack of buy-in 

A successful implementation depends on staff buying-in to the project. Buy-in means that staff will be engaged and committed to using the EHR to optimize a practice’s operations rather than simply view it as a necessary evil.  Despite the importance of buy-in, practices are still failing to bring clinicians onboard to their EHR projects.  According to recent survey physician dissatisfaction with remains a significant barrier to EHR implementation. A study conducted by the MPI Group and Medical Economics indicated that nearly three-quarters of physicians described their EHR investment as not worth the effort, resources, and costs. 

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Three steps to take during implementation to ensure success

Implementation failures or even less than optimal implementations are not inevitable and can be avoided if not have their risk minimized by considering the following three steps.  

Accurate cost and benefit modeling

Accurately modeling long-term and short-term costs with regard to an EHR implementation is an important factor in its success. As such a practice embarking on implementation should conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis or ROI forecast that can express provide an accurate picture of costs and benefits that will arise from the EHR implementation.

Lack of planning

Implementation planning is vital to the success of an EHR implementation. Many practices, to their detriment, fail to place enough time and resources into this step.  Implementation planning should consider the technical side of the implementation, but also the human aspect about ensuring staff is properly trained and comfortable using the system.

Involve stakeholders

When vital stakeholders in an organization are involved in the selection and implementation the probability an implementation will be successful will increase. Involving key stakeholders not only encourages buy-in, but it provides a valuable source of information regarding implementation. 

The causes and strategies to avoid implementation failure relate primarily to issues related to the financial aspects of the project, preparing staff for implementation. These causes can be linked to a failure to properly plan for the implementation by accounting for potential problems that can arise during the implementation and immediately after during the go-live period. Therefore planning and accounting for any potential problems is vital to avoiding implementation failure.

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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

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