Implementing an EHR for Meaningful Use can affect physicians, staff and patients, but risks can be minimized through careful planning.
It’s not uncommon for an electronic health record (EHR) implementation to be met with some resistance by physicians, staff and even patients. After all, transitioning from a paper-based environment to one reliant on an electronic system for all clinical and administrative data can be daunting. However, converting to an EHR doesn’t have to be a dreaded matter, considering the benefits that doing so can provide.
Healthcare practices looking to go digital to participate in Meaningful Use can try the following three suggestions to ease the transition from paper charting to EHR.
1. Promote change, but make it gradual. One of the biggest mistakes that practices make when it comes to implementing an EHR is assuming that workflow can remain the same. The thing is many of the processes that worked well with paper won’t function efficiently anymore when it comes to a using an EHR. This means that change is unavoidable. The key to getting staff to accept those changes is to be open about them and to explain how workflow modifications will benefit both them and patients. Of course, it is also important that those changes not be sudden and all at once. People need time to get used to new ways of doing things, and rushing them isn’t going to help with staff morale.
2. Ask the people using the EHR for feedback. We mentioned that workflow changes should be gradual – but how do you choose which modifications to take on first? Practice administrators can work with physicians and staff to identify the processes that slow things down the most. Doctors, nurses, and even front desk and billing staff should all be involved in this process, as all aspects of workflow can potentially be affected by the EHR. Once problem areas have been identified, they should be arranged by order of importance so that the most important processes can be tackled first. Taking changes on one step at a time will help people adapt to the EHR more easily and ensure that patient care doesn’t suffer along the way.
3. Educate patients to avoid confusion. One of the biggest benefits that Meaningful Use provides to patients is putting their own health data easily within their reach. Having access to this data can encourage patients take a more active role in their care, possibly improving treatment outcomes and overall health. However, providing so much information to patients can also be overwhelming, especially when it comes to interpreting data from labs and other test results. To avoid confusion, explain to patients what the data means and let them know that you are available to answer questions.