By Alex Niswander
With the right plan, you can successfully implement an EHR software solution.
The check has been written and your new EHR software has arrived. The hard part is over right? Well, it would be if “plugandplay” meant that once installed, you could stop using paper charts and charge full speed ahead with your new EHR system.
The first thing most people want to know is: “How long will it take me to implement an EHR?” There is no standard
answer for this, as everyone learns differently and at their own pace.
Some may be experienced with computers and can forgo the extra step of learning their way around a new PC or
tablet. On the other hand, there are doctors who have barely touched computers, and they would need extra time to
learn the technology.
You can still learn lessons, though, from those who have successfully implemented EHR software. There are many
important considerations, ranging from hardware specifications to network configurations, from the staff’s attitude
and willingness to their completion of training.
And the doctor’s ability to put down the paper charts is important, too. But the single most important step is your
The most common reason some practices haven’t successfully implemented their EHR software after purchase is
that either a realistic plan wasn’t developed or the practice didn’t stick to the plan.
Two ways to go
It’s important to understand what is meant by “a successful implementation of EHR software.” In order to be 100percent
successful, you must utilize the EHR software for every patient visit you provide.
There are two different routes to implementing a new system:
1. All at once: Set a date and start using the EHR exclusively from then onward.
2. Step by step: Do a set number of charts with the EHR every day and progressively increase the number until all charts are in the EHR.
You can realize success either way; however, the gradual approach is typically less stressful for all involved. Also, remember that all staff members must be on board and everyone must be accountable. If you decide that on every day of the first week, five patient visits must be recorded in the EHR, then that benchmark must be achieved.
Every office is different. Some prefer a “cold turkey” approach and know if they don’t jump all in, they may never make the leap. If this is your practice’s style, then you have to get your ducks in a row before your “golive” date.
Either style of plan will have the same prelaunch checklist. There will be a setup phase and a training component. Both are critical. Without the proper hardware and network, your system is destined to fail from the start. Without proper training on the product, you have little chance of being successful.
It is vital that you don’t try to run your new software on outdated hardware. Every EHR software package will have what are called minimum hardware requirements. These will include RAM (memory), processor speed, and operating systems. The minimum won’t necessarily be the best, but will be just enough.
Most vendors will have what are called recommended hardware requirements. These will describe the ideal equipment for the given software. You can also call a company’s technical department and ask what they recommend for best performance.
Forward planning is a key to success as well. Without a properly set up infrastructure, you have a possible opportunity for failure in the future.
In other words, let networking experts set up your equipment; it will be money well spent.
With computers and networking it is a good idea to hire a company that has a solid track record with many clients. You may be tempted to hire a techsavvy friend, but you’ll do yourself a favor by hiring a reputable company for IT work.
Chances are that you have been doing your charts the same way for a very long time. You are quite comfortable with your current method and that means any change is going to be painful. As a result, the more education you have on your EHR software, the better for your longterm success.
You will need to know your software thoroughly, how to customize it, and how to upgrade and apply patches. For maximum success, you’ll want to know all this before you begin using your EHR software.
Most companies will have live training sessions that can be attended, in addition to online recordings or DVDs that can be reviewed at your convenience. There will likely be a trainer assigned to your account who will be in charge of answering questions that arise.
Training sessions are often broken down into modules so that you have some practice time before the next session. This makes the learning curve more manageable. The more time you can spend practicing and the faster you complete all the scheduled training, the quicker you’ll complete your implementation phase.
You should devote some extra time to practice with test patients. If you skip this step during training, it is possible that your implementation will be prolonged or worse.
Training sessions are great for getting started; however, you may find that it is by using the software you learn most efficiently.
As for time required, the advanced computer user can have their entire system implemented in about two weeks. The average doctor may need two months. The less advanced could require up to six months or longer.
Regardless of your level of computer knowledge, the most important rule when implementing an EHR system is to have a plan and stick to it.
Alex Niswander is a SOAP notes expert with more than 10 years focused on clinical charting and proper noting procedures. He is also the owner of Chiro QuickCharts EHR system. He can be contacted at 8889785222.