Top 5 EHR Implementation Hurdles & How to Avoid Them

Lisa KurjiakaLegislative and regulatory requirements for surgery centers continue to evolve at both the federal and state level. As a result, reporting requirements are placing a strain on surgery centers. For facilities relying on paper documentation, the task is much more onerous.

While electronic health record-related mandates only loosely affect ASCs today, there are many reasons deploying an EHR system makes sense.  Having a good EHR system in place will greatly reduce the stress on staff while ensuring surgery centers are meeting and exceeding regulatory requirements.

You've signed your contract, you are getting ready to implement your EHR system, now what? Knowing what to expect well in advance will help you plan accordingly and be better prepared. To ensure a smooth EHR implementation, consider the following tips to get started.

1.    Understand your timeline. Work closely with your project manager on an implementation timeline. Expect implementation to take approximately three to six months, longer for busy centers or those with limited staff. It is important to update staff along the way about what to expect at each phase of implementation.  

Communicate to staff, including anesthesia and physicians, early on that things will run slower and cases will run longer during the initial go-live week. This is typically just for the first week, until the doctors and nurses get used to the system. To minimize disruptions, plan for extra staff during this time.
2.    Select an EHR committee. Simply assigning an administrator or business office manager to oversee the implementation process is not enough. Because staff will be using the system daily, they will want to have input into page design. An EHR committee should include representatives from each area of the center and include a pre-op, PACU and intra-op nurse, anesthesia, a physician and even someone from the materials management group. Committee members should also serve as super users, the go-to people if there are any questions; therefore, you want to identify those who embrace technology and are computer savvy.

It is important to get your EHR committee right. If they don’t embrace the system, it will be difficult to convince others that this is a good thing.  If you get it right, they can be ambassadors for the system and make your implementation smoother.

3.    Review current workflow. The move to an EHR system is the ideal time to change some of the things you don't like about your current procedures. Before you begin the implementation process, review your current workflow. For example, you don't like how certain consents are signed at the front desk and would prefer they are signed at pre-op. Take the time upfront to examine processes, gather staff input and implement changes where desired. Otherwise, it will be much more difficult to go back later. Take advantage of this opportunity and get it right the first time.

4.    Consider your hardware. It is important to figure out what works best for your center when selecting hardware. Some centers favor tablets or laptops on carts, while others have stations set-up with screens on the wall and keyboards that pull out. For facilities that plan to use tablets, make sure you have really good charging stations; large carts that house the tablets at night typically offer a substantial charge. Without a proper charging station you risk the tablets not being fully charged when staff arrive in the morning. Furthermore, don't get your tablets the week before you are ready to go live. Otherwise it will cause unnecessary stress on your staff because they won't know how to use them.

5.    Test for dead spots. Test your wireless as much as possible before the go-live date. Some centers will have wireless routers throughout the facility but the signal might not be strong enough resulting in dead spots that staff are not aware of in advance. The result is your access to the EHR system will be lost unexpectedly. Test your wireless as much as you can prior to the go-live date to make sure it is strong enough in every area of your center. With the proper preparation, unnecessary hurdles can be avoided.

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