EHR Adoption in a Critical Access Hospital: Lessons Learned

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At the Becker's Hospital Review 4th Annual Meeting in Chicago on May 11, Devin Carpenter, RN, assistant director of nursing at Parmer Medical Center in Friona, Texas, shared tips to follow for a successful electronic health record implementation.

Parmer Medical Center is a critical access hospital about 70 miles outside of Amarillo, Texas; and, prior to installing an EHR system, most of the patient documentation was done by hand and the hospital had no full-time IT professional. Now, Parmer has a hospital-wide EHR system with high levels of buy-in from the clinical staff.

The 25-bed hospital learned many lessons during its EHR adoption process. Mr. Carpenter shared several tips during the discussion, including the following.

Identify one key "champion" provider. Some nurses and physicians may be hesitant to accept using an EHR system, so it is key to find just one provider who is supportive of the change. That provider can be the first person trained on the system and promote the system to his or her peers.

Examine the leadership gap. At Parmer, there was a need for a nurse or IT professional to really take the lead on training and problem resolution, so a nurse was promoted to nurse informatics leader. The nurse informatics leader looks for system updates and helps solves problems with the system. "She plays a huge part in what we do and has been a huge part of our success," Mr. Carpenter said. The hospital also hired a full-time IT professional.

Educate clinicians. Using an EHR system can be a big change for many clinicians, so it is important to give them continuous support. "The one champion is going to help you tremendously," Mr. Carpenter said. Additionally, the nurse informatics leader should be available to providers learning the system to assist with any problems. Education needs to be continuous, and follow-up education may be necessary as well.

Take time to test. Doing appropriate testing and validation of the system is extremely important when it comes to EHR implementation. "Whatever time you take in testing is how successful you're going to be," said Mr. Carpenter. "You need to be very thorough in testing."

Following these tips helped Parmer Medical Center successfully implement the EHR system and meet its goals for implementation: standardizing documentation, reducing medication errors, improving revenue capture and simplifying patient transfers.

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