What successful EHR requirements gathering looks like

For organizations that have an EHR in place and are selecting a  replacement system, or for those setting up a new system without a prior EHR infrastructure, the requirements gathering process provides the direction on which an organization’s technology strategy will travel. Before sending out RFPs, a practice should have a clear understanding of its requirements regarding EHR or other healthcare technology.

Requirements gathering involves three main areas of focus:

  1. Information gathering
  2. Identifying problems and opportunities
  3. Identifying EHR features that can mitigate or eliminate problems or maximize opportunities

Information Gathering

The type and sources of information collected during the information gathering process dictate whether the process will be successful.

Practices planning and conducting requirements gathering should strive to gather the information that is representative of their entire practice by using surveys, focus groups, or individual brainstorming sessions that allow the interviewer to gather data from stakeholders in their practice who can speak to current problems and what EHR features are presently effective and what features are needed to resolve problems.

However, when gathering information, make sure always to ask yourself: does the information being gathered provide a representative sample of the practice, or are all voices and opinions being considered?

Identifying problems and opportunities 

The information-gathering process discussed above is primarily guided by identifying problems and opportunities and the EHR features or configurations that can resolve or mitigate problems or help take advantage of opportunities. For example, the most popular reason for implementing an EHR solution was to increase efficiency. Therefore an organization looking to make improvements in this area would identify EHR features that are linked to improvements in efficiency. 

Regarding problem areas, it is essential to look at their root causes, and regarding the latter verify that an opportunity is real. For example, make sure that evidence supports that a problem exists, or an opportunity is present or can be verified through, at a minimum strong anecdotal evidence. If not, the last thing a practice can afford to do is seek out EHR features that are not required. 

Which features will solve the problem

Once a set of problems and their causes have been identified, and opportunities have been verified as real, the next important step in the requirements gathering process involves determining how an EHR can be used to solve or at least mitigate the causes of these problems or can be used to exploit potential opportunities.

The process of linking problems and opportunities with appropriate EHR features that can resolve or mitigate problems or exploit opportunities is conducted using information gathered from stakeholders, technology staff, or other experts who can provide advice on EHR technology-based solutions. 

Requirements gathering represents the foundation of the EHR selection process, whereby a practice gathers information to identify problems and opportunities which can be resolved or exploited through certain EHR features.

Since EHR requirements gathering serves as the foundation for a successful selection process, if one fails to approach the process with a clear direction or relies on inadequate information this can translate to problems in a flawed selection process resulting in any number of negative consequences such as lost revenue, unnecessary costs, and a diminished ability to deliver quality care.

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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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