How long should an EHR implementation take?

The time needed to implement an EHR is an important factor a practice considers when planning an EHR project. Arriving at a rough estimate for the length of an EHR implementation period supplies a mechanism by which to firstly, and most importantly, plan for any disruption in a practice’s daily workflow the implementation may cause. Secondly, understanding the time needed to implement an EHR aids in the planning process by supplying implementation planners and teams the ability to break the process into milestones through which to gauge progress toward the project’s completion. 

Given the number of variables that can either increase or decrease the time needed for an EHR implementation the typical time needed for EHR implementation varies by setting and by product. As such, one cannot easily find a standard timeline for EHR implementation. 

For example, a hospital EHR implementation would require more time than a smaller ambulatory clinic. Further a smaller ambulatory clinic implementing an EHR with a more complicated set of features could potentially take more time than a similar clinic who is implementing a basic EHR. Also, from a comparative perspective, an on-premises deployment will take longer than a cloud-based deployment given that the former requires the installation of on-premises hardware and software and the latter does not require an onsite infrastructure to operate.

With these thoughts in mind, how long should an EHR implementation take?

The time needed to implement an EHR

As a preliminary consideration, an organization and its EHR team should not be guided exclusively by how long the planners believe the implementation should take rather than the time needed to effectively launch an EHR. As such one should approach the question of EHR implementation time frames with flexibility. A process that may be taking slightly longer as a measure to ensure a more efficient rollout would be preferable to a rushed process whereby problems must be ironed out on the backend. 

Given the lack of a wealth of case studies that can supply a consensus on how long an EHR implementation should take one can still arrive at some ballpark estimates. One source of data can be found with information provided by vendors who can pull from their own experiences with guiding customers through the EHR implementation process to supply estimates of the time required for the implementation of their product. 

The HITEQ (Health Information and Technology, Evaluation and Quality) Center, a public sector organization supplying informational support and guidance to healthcare providers, estimates that for practices of all sizes the entire process from early planning to go-live can be achieved in a year. For practices making modifications to an existing system or who may be a smaller practice implementing a cloud-based system, the process can be shortened given the method of deployment and smaller scale in which the implementation is being carried out. In these cases, an implementation may only take six to nine months and, in the case of cloud-based systems, the system can be in place and integrated into daily workflows over several weeks. 

Planning for the time needed to implement an EHR is important from a project planning perspective, it also supplies a way to stay ahead of potential problems and set realistic time-sensitive milestones that can keep a project moving along. 

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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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