Optimizing your EHR should be a planned phase of every project and should be seen as a top priority. It creates the perfect opportunity to significantly improve productivity. An honest assessment of your current system will allow your organization to uncover any common sets of problems that if addressed could do wonders for improving physician EHR satisfaction. By researching best practices and identifying the workflows that supports those practices you will be better positioned to approach the future.
Having the optimization phase as part of the overall EHR project plan also ensures that the resources that are needed will be available. Time and manpower will have to be allocated to gather feedback from the various groups, being sure to pay attention to groups of all views, not just those voicing concern.
Before you begin your optimization phase take these three steps:
- Evaluate the current state of your EHR’s original implementation
- Create clearly defined optimization goals and develop a plan for how change will be handled across the organization
- Understand the impact of change and the benefits that will result.
It is also important to acknowledge that it may not be possible to meet all of the requests of end-users, so managing their expectations is equally important. Often time’s a governance committee that is inclusive of all disciplines is established to help prioritize change. However once those priorities are set, they too should be communicated to the entire staff.
KEYS TO OPTIMIZATION SUCCESS
It is no secret that many providers, office managers and office administrator’s time is taxed and they are being stretched in many different directions. It becomes very easy to lose sight of the daily tasks and what it takes to run a practice more efficiently. Try to make it a goal to meet regularly with your physicians, nursing staff, medical assistants, clinicians and office staff in order to understand their workflows. Talk about the system challenges they face from patient intake to patient discharge. Including the nursing staff is extremely valuable due to the fact that they often do a large portion of populating the patients chart and assisting the physician during each and every patient visit. Documenting the existing workflow is essential and will often identify “pain points” and allow you the opportunity to address the difficult scenarios and develop strategies that address those issues.
Training is a key to every initial implementation and any subsequent optimization. If physicians and staff are unable to put in the time to become familiar with the EHR, then they cannot be expected to be comfortable and skilled with it. They should be thoroughly trained on their workflows and fully understand the impact that their workflow has on the others within the process.
Encourage your staff to note any challenges along the way and then when it comes time to designing future workflows you will already have a reference of best practices and “pain points”. Having reference points of early EHR success can often be a valuable tool in getting providers and staff to accept change.
Identifying “super users” within your practice can also prove to be very valuable and help others use the system better. Plus, if time and resources allow, make it a point to schedule one-on-one EHR optimization sessions with staff members several times a year. This time gives you an opportunity to uncover concerns that staff members might be having in their day to day activities and workflows. It is a golden chance to try to get some hands on observation of how they are using the EHR. It can also be a great time to offer some tips and tricks on how they can use the system more efficiently. Try to make this a regular activity for you and your end users.
If you choose to schedule more training, make it specific to process and workflows in question. Remember that training is equated to ROI (return on investment). It will cost you overtime, or lost productivity if you close office hours, so budget accordingly. However, the additional training costs will help you realize your original EHR vision and pay off in the end.
When all is said and done it must be remembered that the overall goal of the EHR is to aid physicians and practices in taking better care of patients. Providing better access to information and data is one way that can be accomplished. Optimization of the EHR system and getting the end users to fully utilize the system can create better patient outcomes, while at the same time increase provider satisfaction and in turn have practices performing more efficiently. You will soon come to realize that optimizing your EHR system will be ongoing and should not be considered a one-time event.