Implementing an electronic medical record system can be problematic for healthcare facilities lacking adequate EMR project management, as a poorly planned transition can affect staff morale and patient care. According to a study at seven Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals, when information systems are executed without proper planning and oversight, unnecessary problems can occur and affect patient safety. To avoid setbacks and stressful situations, doctors planning to make the switch to electronic charting should familiarize themselves with the following factors researchers found to have the most effect on a successful EMR implementation.
Organizational stability and team leadership.
Assign a reliable staff member with the task of overseeing the transition, and make sure that doctors, nurses, and administrative employees are all on board. Employees will need to be able to trust the project manager’s ability and respect their authority; therefore, a good leader will need to be well-informed and able to articulate changes in procedure.
The best implementation strategy will involve phasing the new system in gradually to give doctors and staff time to adjust. For clinics switching from one EMR software to another, the process needs to be planned out a lot more carefully, as doctors will need to be up and running much sooner. Remember that a rushed process and shorter timelines can result in a bad implementation experience.
Equipment availability and reliability.
Make sure your EMR vendor is clear about hardware requirements and server specifications, as having adequate equipment and network infrastructure can make for a smoother transition when you’re finally ready to go live. Facilities that rely on mobile devices will want to test their wireless internet connection ahead of time. Technical problems can always be fixed, of course, but doing so before you have to start using the EMR in a live environment will prevent a lot of headaches.
Staff training and changes in workflow.
Keep in mind that staff training isn’t always limited to the new software, and a good EMR project management strategy will take this into account. Nurses and doctors who have been charting on paper for years, for example, may see their workflows affected when it suddenly becomes necessary for them to type everything into the EMR software. Staff members with less computer experience will also need more training than others. Finally, when it comes to the software itself, it is important for employees to know that assistance is available at any time, should they have any questions.
For the full VA study, click here.