In a world where regulatory requirements can feel like a maze, data management is king. That means one of the most important choices a skilled nursing provider makes is choosing its electronic health record (EHR) platform and the technology partner to run it.
For skilled nursing facilities, this is easier said than done. A 2017 study from The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology showed that only two thirds of SNFs have adopted EHRs, compared to nearly 80% of home health agencies.
Even SNFs with EHRs largely possess sub-optimal systems. Fewer than half have a system capable of complete interoperability, the sort of system necessary for today’s SNF landscape.
This leads many SNF operators to undertake the process of either adding an EHR, or switching EHR providers. The ones who have the most success in transitioning to a new EHR follow four key steps.
1. Build organizational commitment
Despite the obvious value an EHR system brings to skilled nursing, the industry remains slow to adapt. Leaders looking to push their organizations to change providers face a number of challenges, perhaps none more pressing than internal ones.
Building organizational commitment to the change can be a critical first step.
Leaders can drive this commitment by developing an internal project team that will meet a host of responsibilities. Those include the need to champion the project within the organization, define the user and system requirements, establish and manage the project budget, allocate the required time for all involved to complete their tasks and, of course, to research and select the new EHR provider.
As for personnel, the project may include several different roles including a project sponsor, project manager, clinical and financial leads, and IT lead charged with technology-related tasks.
2. Ensure project readiness
Once the organization is on board, the team must work toward project readiness. This means agreeing on three key elements: project scope, planning process and communications strategy.
It also means that the entire team must know the systems, processes, and activities that will change when the new EHR system is in place, as well as their respective responsibilities within the new landscape.
To reach project readiness, the team needs to gain consensus on several decisions before choosing a new EHR partner. Most importantly, teams must:
- Create project timeline
- Plan the EHR project kickoff meetings with the vendor and facilities
- Plan for data import and conversion, as well as for sunsetting the current system
- Plan for infrastructure requirements
3. Create a strategy for implementation and rollout
With scope, plan and communications nailed down, organizations in the midst of an EHR transition need to consider the rollout of the new platform. How this is executed depends on the needs of the organization — whether an all-at-once or phased rollout is best, whether the EHR switch should be done at scale across an entire organization or on a regional or even community basis.
Some skilled nursing providers will launch a pilot program to help set expectations and strategy going forward, and most will establish an implementation timeline, as well as post-implementation plans for training and support.
4. Get your house in order
The team is ready, the project is ready, the timeline is ready — but none of that matters if an organization’s own transitional process will be bumpy. Hence the final, most crucial step before selecting a new EHR partner is to analyze your existing systems: the processes, infrastructure and any other touch points to the new system.
After all, without understanding current processes and requirements, it’s easy to err in vendor selection and implement an adequate system run by a vendor ill-equipped to meet the company’s existing or future needs.
Review existing process to determine how they will change. Evaluate everything from accounting and billing practices to clinical staff duties and resident care. In short, identify and eliminate any potential duplication of effort that could derail a smooth switch to a new EHR vendor.
Choosing an EHR partner is a decision that requires significant thought, team input and a solid strategic approach. To learn more, visit PointClickCare and read “Switching EHR Partners Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing for and Finding a New EHR Partner.”