The digital boom has disrupted the healthcare industry in multiple ways in the last decade. Gone are the days of using bulky file folders to store, manage, and retrieve patient information in a clinical establishment. The widespread transition from the document-based storage system to EHR is one of the remarkable reforms in the healthcare sector. This blog talks about the common EHR implementation challenges faced by providers and the ways to resolve them.
Why is EHR Important?
An Electronic Health Record, more commonly called as EHR in the healthcare world, refers to the storage of a patient’s information in a digital format. These patient-centered records are available anytime for authorized users, thus easing the clinical workflow. The healthcare team has real-time access to the entire medical history of the patients including the diagnosis details, the treatment plans and aftercare, allergies to medications, lab test results, and more.
Owing to the numerous benefits it offers, EHR has become an inevitable tool for hospitals as well as private health practitioners across the world. It fosters better health outcomes while reducing costs for both the healthcare provider and the patient. It negates medical error leading to improved diagnostics and patient safety. Moreover, it contributes to higher patient engagement and facilitates enhanced care coordination.
10 EHR Implementation Challenges
Implementation of EHR in a healthcare system is not as easy as it sounds. There are numerous potential challenges in implementing an electronic health records system. Being aware of the challenges in advance will help the providers to avoid it and make the transition process smoother. Here goes a list of major hurdles that providers should be aware of while implementing EHR.
1 Cost of Implementation
It is no surprise that EHR implementation is an expensive affair. The selection, implementation, and optimization of EHR will take away the lion’s share of the planned capital budget investment. As per a study report, the cost of purchasing and installing an EHR system ranges from $15,000 to $70,000 per provider. On a general note, the implementation process can be classified into five components viz. setting up the hardware, software costs, implementation assistance, training for the staff, ongoing network fees, and maintenance. There could be unplanned expenses as well during the implementation. Finding financial resources for EHR implementation is one of the major hurdles, especially for smaller establishments.
2 Staff Resistance
Not everyone in the medical staff would be open to the idea of technological implementation in the establishment. In addition, there are health practitioners who are doubtful about the efficacy of electronic health records. They may show reluctance to give up the documentation process. In some cases, the staff lack awareness about the current technological advancements and the comprehensive benefits of it. It leads to the delayed implementation of EHR.
3 Training is time-consuming
Prior to deploying the EHR system, the staff needs to be given thorough training about the new workflow. The physicians and the medical team has to spend extra time and put in extra effort to understand the new system. It is a time-consuming process and a hassle for both the staff and the management. Small and mid-sized organizations fear the loss of business during the training phase. Also, the staff may, at times, consider it an unnecessary effort.
4 Lack of usability
If the EHR system is inadequate to fit into the existing workflow, physicians find it difficult to adapt to it. The one-size-fits-all rule does not suit the EHR system as the workflow of a dentist differs from that of a cardiologist and likewise. The flaws in the design or the inadequacy of training decrease the ease of using the software.
5 Data Privacy
Another major EHR implementation challenge is the data privacy concerns of the patient community as well as the provider. The stakeholders often voice concerns over the risk of data leakage due to a natural disaster or a cyber attack. The federal rule has imposed a national policy to protect the confidentiality of personal health data. In case of a security breach, the organization may get into a legal hassle and have to spend millions of dollars to settle the dispute. Hence, it becomes a major responsibility of the provider to ensure data security of the EHR.
6 Data Migration
It is a logistical nightmare for the staff to export paper-based documents to date to the digital records. There will be large chunks of documents about the medical history of hundreds of patients and data entry might become a tedious and a time-consuming task for the staff. This is a major EHR implementation challenge for hospitals and effort is doubled if there is no proper format in the former system.
7 Limitation of Technical Resources
This is one of the EHR implementation challenges often faced by small clinical establishments and private health practitioners. They rarely own an in-house technical team. Moreover, they might not have the required hardware to equip the EHR solution. It is a huge expense to build an in-house technical team and buy hardware, which is a common reason for small and mid-sized healthcare providers for delaying the EHR implementation process.
Interoperability refers to the ability of different EHR systems or software to exchange information so that different providers can make use of it. In EHR, interoperability is a necessity in order to get a complete picture of the patient’s health. It remains a huge challenge for healthcare providers to build an interoperable system that enables the transfer of information among multiple providers. Not to mention, for better health outcomes for the patient, there should be proper care coordination among multiple providers.
9 Lack of Proper Planning
More or less, EHR implementation brings in a cultural change in the organization than a mere technological upgrade. Hence, the change management aspects of EHR implementation become a real challenge. It needs to be strategically planned in advance and commitment is expected from all stakeholders. The successful implementation and sustainability of the EHR system will be a far-fetched dream without a great amount of planning involved.
10 Lack of Communication
Effective communication between the healthcare provider and the IT vendor is essential to build an EHR system that gives the desired results. It is not a one-time activity but a continuous process to ensure that the expectations of both the parties are met. The concerns and feedbacks of the provider should be addressed appropriately and the vendor should be able to build effective tools as per the requirement of the provider. Without proper communication, the goals cannot be met.
7 EHR Implementation Solutions
The EHR adoption rate has gone up rapidly in recent years. Subsequently, health IT experts, as well as administrators, have come up with strategic solutions to solve the common challenges faced by providers in the implementation of EHR. If you are a healthcare provider in the market for building an efficient EHR system, here’s a list of solutions to make the process easier and manageable.
1 Have a Strategic Plan
The initial step of EHR implementation is to come up with a detailed strategic plan for the activities ahead. Assign duties and responsibilities for the team members, identify the physician champions, and create a space for mutual support and dependence. Make sure the team is ready with the contingency plans too. Workforce productivity may decrease; workflow may go haywire or even patients may get annoyed during the implementation phase. An important point to remember here is that preparation is the key to successful EHR implementation.
2 Treat Consultants as Partners
EHR implementation is a collaborative process that requires commitment from all the team members including providers, IT vendors, consultants, staff, physicians, etc. Share the larger vision of the process and make it a common goal among the stakeholders to work towards it. This helps to complete the implementation on time, within the budget and with good usability.
3 Ensure Strong Leadership
In order to align the team to the organization’s EHR implementation process, leaders should act proactively to the change the management. Create a sub-committee of leaders who have experience in implementing new IT systems in different fields to guide the implementation team.
4 Patient Comes First
While making decisions on the EHR implementation, think about how and why it would benefit the patients. In a value-based healthcare system, the wants of the patient are of utmost importance. After all, the largest user group in the EHR system is the patient.
5 Follow a Timeline
It is a challenge to meet the deadlines while the EHR implementation process is carried out. Try to keep the timeline slips as low as possible by creating a realistic plan. Communicate with your team on how much a single day of delay will cost the implementation team.
6 Ensure Ample Training
The motive behind EHR implementation is to streamline the process and improve efficiency. If employees fail to use the system effectively and continue to follow traditional methods, the goals will remain unattainable. Employ a comprehensive training plan for the staff and communicate to them how the new system benefits patient care and make their job easier and efficient. Encourage them by giving recognition when milestones are met or think of additional payments when they overwork.
7 Work with Experts
For successful implementation of EHR, get assistance from experts who have in-depth knowledge on both the workflow of the hospital and the EHR system. Take advantage of the opportunities to learn from leaders who have deployed EHR systems efficiently in a health establishment. This helps in anticipating the roadblocks on the way and resolving them quickly.
For healthcare organizations, EHR implementation is not anything opulent. A meaningful user-certified EHR system is a norm in the present healthcare landscape and a liability for the providers. They are a step closer to ensuring quality health care with proper EHR implementation in place.
However, there are many barriers to the successful deployment of EHR which can be alleviated with proper planning and strategic execution. Furthermore, the EHR system should be custom-made to fit into the current workflow of the physician and it requires the assistance of health IT experts who are familiar with the clinical workflows.
Shailendra Sinhasane (Shail) is the co-founder and CEO of Mobisoft Infotech. He has been focused on cloud solutions, mobile strategy, cross-platform development, IoT innovations and advising healthcare startups in building scalable products.