10 tips for a smooth EMR implementation

It goes without saying that EMR implementations are no easy feat, requiring additional resources, time, energy and planning to get a hospital or health system prepared for a scheduled go-live date.

A new report from KLAS Research offers 10 best practices from providers to help keep EMR implementations as smooth as possible.

1. Address weaknesses early on. Providers should discuss any weaknesses with their vendors early in the adoption process to help preemptively address any pitfalls that may surface during implementation.

2. Consistently measure progress. Giving feedback to vendors can help keep communication channels open and foster discussions about the implementation. Additionally, encouraging vendors to provide feedback to the organization can keep processes running smoothly.

3. Organizations need to be willing to change. Vendors can't transform an organization on their own. Providers need to be willing to change and accept all the obstacles that come along with such a big transition. Buy-in from all organizational levels is critical.

4. Manage timeline expectations. An implementation project alters how an organization is run, and understanding the new processes takes time. Additionally, implementation projects should be less about meeting deadlines for certain pieces of the project and more about adopting change. Providers suggest holding off on setting a go-live date until an organization is completely ready.

5. Learn from past lessons. By analyzing past performances, both good and bad, providers and vendors can develop more realistic expectations and address potential problems before they arise.

6. Know your vendor's capabilities. The implementation process is likely to go much smoother if a provider knows what a vendor can and cannot provide. Additionally, providers should also know the capabilities of the system they are implementing.

7. Find, and engage, a point person. Engagement at all levels of an organization is critical during an implementation process, but so is appointing a key person who can commit to the project full-time. This individual should be the most knowledgeable about the chosen system.

8. Engage middle management. Buy-in from middle management is critical during implementation projects because it is often the workflows middle management designed that are being replaced with new systems, according to the KLAS report. The project environment should permit vendors to address any issues with middle management.

9. Transform from the top down. Executive level leadership should not only be on board with the implementation, but they should be intimately involved in the process. Some providers suggest executives should be the first to be trained on the new platform to ensure the frontline workers who will be using the platform every day receive the same top-level training. "Having the executives experience the training firsthand prevents the thinking that good enough is okay and will help organizations make the experience as easy for the end users as the executives would want it to be for themselves," according to the report.

10. Look for outside help. Organizations who hire a third-party to help with implementation projects often rate their project satisfaction as higher than those who don't hire an outside firm. Third parties may slow down implementation and increase costs, but the guidance they provide in leadership, tools and methodology can help smooth transitions.

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