3 EHR install tips

Since a new EHR system can be so costly, hospital IT executives told Becker's that the key to a successful EHR install is collaboration and keeping the focus on the patient.

Here is the advice three hospital executives gave on installing a new EHR:

Monica Wharton. COO of Methodist Le Bonheur (Memphis, Tenn.): Remember, this is about the patient. As we have gone about this journey, we have been guided by what we call our travel guidelines. Internally, we named our project 'My MLH Passport' internally with the goal of going to our destination. That final destination is really focused on a vision of ensuring our patients are empowered to navigate their healthcare journey. You should stay focused on the patient; the system should be designed for your patients and customers.

For us, it was remembering that it needs to be simplistic, that we want to be efficient, and we want to be consistent as we navigate the process. I think we've also told our team to continue to go slow to go fast and we go slow by following the governance principles that we design to make sure that decision-making is done at the right level within the organization and for the right reason. So we can continue within our organization forward to meet the needs of our patients and their future.

Robert Eardley. CIO of University Hospitals (Cleveland): In most cases, installing a new EHR is a multi-year implementation, so it's important to put in the work during the business case and pre-initiate stage in order to build a plan that can stay relatively consistent. At UH, for example, we had to manage five budgets — one capital throughout as well as four annual operating budgets. 

Also, make sure that in addition to the Epic implementation team, you find and contract with a trusted labor agency for certified trainers and for activation support. This will likely be one of your largest expenses. It's important to really understand your split between capital and operating expense — more than 35 percent of our total budget was operating expense. Find a great implementation advisor who can supplement your implementation team in selected domain areas. Finally, make sure that your overall organization understands the transformational and all-encompassing nature of a full-scale, integrated EHR system.

Sergio Melgar. CFO of UMass Memorial Health (Worcester, Mass.): I think you have to start with the reality that the journey is not going to be a short one. It will be a big cost. So in order to succeed, you definitely need to collaborate. You need partnerships. You need to have ownership on the part of all the players that are involved. You need to make sure you have executive buy-in and governance buy-in. If there are issues, if there are big decisions that need to be made, you need people to effectively identify where those decisions are.

You have got to know what you are getting yourself into. It is a long journey, and then you're committed because once you're committed, you have paths you are going to follow. Be aware of your successes and failures so that you learn from others.

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