Jerri Cowper, Ambulatory National Practice Director
The decision to change electronic health record (EHR) vendors is not an easy one. Any organization faces difficult questions. Are our EHR team and end users able to take on yet another change? Are we ready to go through the vendor selection once again? Can we handle the expense of going through yet another implementation?
Are you ready for change?
If a change to a new EHR vendor is being discussed, it’s probably for a reason. Whether there have been bad end-user experiences, the organization has outgrown the application, there have been errors or bugs within the application, or there are numerous areas of functionality missing from your currently implemented vendor, years of discussions have likely brought you to the point of making the decision about whether it is time to make a change. Your EHR team and/or end users have more than likely been very involved in these discussions and may have even planted the seed for the change.
However, preparing for and removing your team from support of the system you are sun-setting may weigh heavily on their minds. Expecting your team to perform dual responsibilities of the legacy system and new system is setting the organization and the team up for failure. In order to properly commit the effort required to implement a new system, your team needs to be released from support of the legacy system. This is an area where an outside consulting firm typically can be most valuable.
Vendor selection made easy
Having been through vendor selection previously and knowing what you know today about the gaps in your current system, the EHR vendor selection process may be more intense, but rest assured that it will be more thorough. You are coming into this with the “if I knew then what I know now” experience and knowledge.
Taking inventory of the current issues with your existing system, recognizing where gaps exist, and detailing important functionality are valuable steps prior to starting down the path of vendor demonstrations. Creating your list of “must-haves” versus “nice-to-haves” can be a difficult exercise but is a necessary one. This checklist will set the bar that the vendors will need to reach in order to be considered. Once you have weeded out the vendors that don’t meet the “must-haves,” you are ready to begin the vendor demonstrations.
Now your team, providers, and board members are ready to demo the new systems, as they have knowledge of what they require do their job each day. If you are looking for a fully integrated system, involving other key personnel such as a front desk, surgery scheduling, or clinical staff will prove beneficial. Ensuring that your revenue cycle, coding, and meaningful use teams are involved in the demonstrations and discussions will also be crucial to a successful selection.
What about the expense?
This can be one of the most challenging aspects of the conversation: How do we justify the expense of bringing in a new system? The first step is to tally up your current expenses, focusing on the added expenses and the extra man-hours spent each year to overcome the ongoing issues you have experienced. Then offset those expenses with that of the new system to determine your return on investment. You may have already gotten that far and are still undecided. The next step is to reach out to your network and the network of your network to find others who have been through a similar experience to hear how they were able to overcome the financial issue.
Your organization may even be in a situation where the expense is a non-issue due to the demands to meet regulatory requirements by either your state or federal governments.
So is your organization ready for a change? Every organization is unique in their requirements and issues they are experiencing; therefore, only you can know whether you are ready for such a change. But rest assured that you can begin this adventure much more armed than you may have been in your last one.