The digital boom has disrupted the healthcare industry in multiple ways in the last decade. Storing patient information in folders manually has been slowly and creatively replaced with EHR implementation in the healthcare industry. 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 commonly referred to as an EHR in the healthcare industry, refers to the storage and safekeeping of a patient’s information in a digital format. These patient-centered records are available anytime for authorized providers thus easing the clinical workflow. The EHR implementation has become a vital segment in aggregating the patient’s medical history by providing real-time access to the diagnosis details, treatment plans, aftercare, allergies to medications, lab test results, and more. This implementation of EHR offers access to digital health tools necessary for decision-making processes. The effectiveness of EHRs helps to automate and properly streamline the process for providers and makes the healthcare workflow more efficient toward care-driven goals.
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 errors leading to improved diagnostics and patient safety. Moreover, it contributes to higher patient engagement and facilitates enhanced care coordination.
Top 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 EHR challenges in advance will help the providers to avoid unnecessary data sharing and make the transition from traditional to digital storage of the health data 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
There continues to be resistance amongst staff members regarding the idea of EHR implementation in the establishment. In addition, there are health practitioners who are doubtful about the efficacy of electronic health records and the privacy protocols. They may show reluctance to give up the documentation process due to the lack of digital integration. In some cases, the staff lack awareness of the current technological advancements and the comprehensive benefits of EHR implementation. It leads to the delayed implementation of EHR.
3 Training is time-consuming
Before the implementation of EHR systems, the staff needs to be given thorough training about the new workflow. The providers and the medical team have to spend extra time and put in extra effort to understand the new system to adjust their work accordingly. 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 causing barriers to implementing EHR systems in their organizations. 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, providers find it difficult to adapt to it. The one-size-fits-all rule does not suit the EHR system as the workflow of a therapist compared to that of a cardiologist and likewise. The flaws in the design or the inadequacy of training decrease the ease of using the EHR software. Compromised health care data can have fatal consequences on patient health outcomes.
5 Data Privacy
Another major challenge of EHR is the data privacy concerns of the patient and provider community. 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 the data security of the EHR systems.
6 Data Migration
It is a logistical nightmare for the staff to export paper-based documents to 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 time-consuming task for the staff. This is one of the major EHR implementation challenges 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 team with technical expertise and provider supervision. Moreover, they might not have the required hardware to equip the EHR solution. It is a huge expense to build an in-house team with proper staff with adequate expertise and buy hardware, which is a common reason for small and mid-sized healthcare providers for delaying the EHR implementation process.
Interoperability is a process of integrated health data to be accessible for easier information exchange with providers and hospitals. Interoperability enables providers and healthcare practitioners to have access to patient data in a consolidated and structuralized manner to provide better treatment and care delivery services. Interoperability in EHR is a necessity to understand a patient’s complete health record, yet, it remains one of the major challenges in electronic health records for proper data transference. This lack of interoperability can hinder care coordination and health outcomes can deter from identifying the cause of medical assistance.
9 Lack of Proper Planning
More or less, EHR implementation brings in a cultural change in the organization rather than a mere technological upgrade. Hence, the change in management aspects of EHR implementation become a real challenge. It needs to be strategically planned and commitment is expected from all stakeholders. Without having a structuralized plan for EHR implementation can lead to data breaches and cybersecurity threats to patient information. The successful implementation and sustainability of the EHR systems can be a far-fetched dream without a great amount of planning involved.
10 Lack of Communication
Effective communication between the healthcare provider, IT vendor, and the patients is essential to building 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 all the parties are met. The concerns and feedback 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, hence creating a massive poll of EHR challenges in integrating data collection systems.
EHR Implementation Solutions to Overcome Challenges
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 Aiding in Clinical Research
Healthcare and patient information data is a highly crucial aspect of clinical research and it has been a proven fact. The seamless implementation of EHR systems improves data interoperability drastically across the care continuum. Clinical researchers will have easy access to the required data and interoperability systems will enable providers to exchange these data with the scientists and researchers to facilitate their findings.
3Improvement in productivity
There may be challenges of EHR interoperability in the healthcare market, but interoperable EHR systems can help in saving time, effort, and expenses. The benefits of EHR implementation reduce the work pressure on staff and enhance productivity to continue providing better healthcare services. The digitization of data helps to remove redundancy and improves the speed of processing patient information to ensure faster transmission of data to providers.
4 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 after implementing electronic health records. This helps to complete the implementation on time, within the budget, and with good usability.
5 Ensure Strong Leadership
To align the team to the organization’s EHR implementation process, leaders should act proactively to 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. Ensuring strong leadership can improve the implementation of EHR technologies and systems.
6 Ensuring Improved Patient Experience
While making decisions on the EHR implementation, think about how and why it would benefit the patients. In a value-based healthcare system, the patient’s wants are of utmost importance. After all, the largest user group in the EHR system is the patient. Hence, improving EHR interoperability and securing data privacy can maintain a better rapport with the patients by improving their loyalty to the business. This can also help in improving patient experience, resulting in better patient-provider communication in correspondence to health outcomes.
7 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.
7 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 vendors and staff on how much a single day of delay will cost with EHR implementation teams.
8 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 and deteriorate patient satisfaction. Employ a comprehensive training plan for the staff and communicate to them how the new system benefits patient care and makes their job easier and more efficient. Encourage them by giving recognition when milestones are met or think of additional payments when they overwork.
9 Work with Experts
For successful implementation of EHR, get assistance from experts who have in-depth knowledge of both the workflow of the hospital and the EHR systems interoperability protocols. 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 an unknown integration process. 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 by derailing from the challenges of EHR systems. Improving interoperability will continue to create patient-centered care approaches and enhance providers to be informed about patient conditions. EHR is all set to reach its peak in witnessing the advancements of technology in the future.
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.