Readers Write: The Three Most Important EHR Decisions (hint, it’s not whether to choose Epic or Cerner)
The Three Most Important EHR Decisions (hint, it’s not whether to choose Epic or Cerner)
By Chuck Garrity
As hospitals and physicians groups replace their current EHRs (and 17 percent of them did last year – either due to merger/acquisition or replacement of a “second tier” system), they traditionally focus on two things. First, which EHR platform to choose, and shortly after, who is going to implement the new EHR.
These are critical decisions on which technology and medical leadership teams rightly spend lots of money and time. And increasingly, they are choosing among a smaller and smaller number of solid partners that have established themselves as the smartest choice – as evidenced by third party rankings and success stories in publications such as this. Beyond these two, however, there are three other key decisions which must be made that have just as much impact on the ultimate success of an EHR switch.
Who goes first? Second? Last?
As we enter 2014 and beyond, practices who are still on paper will be subject to Meaningful Use reimbursement penalties, so they are a natural choice to put onto a replacement EHR first. After them, however, who should be next in line for the new system? Ideally it should be based on quantitative, thoughtful data, not just on the physician or office manager who raises their hand first.
Establishing a baseline of practice health – leadership, EHR usage, workflow, and technology — to stratifying a diverse network is critical. Using this baseline in conjunction with ongoing measurement at go-live to identify challenges, best practices, and areas requiring additional support is critical to a successful program.
How do you manage your legacy systems?
It’s generally a given that systems do not have the capacity or budget to move everyone over at the same time, that old systems will need to be maintained, and their data made accessible for some period of time. Can your support team focus on implementing and supporting the new EHR while keeping the lights on for legacy EHRs? Not by themselves – the core team must focus on the future, and practices can’t be left in the cold.
Practices on legacy EHRs generally need even more responsive technical and customer support in period of change, especially considering enterprise implementations could take 1-2 years, and the pressing regulatory deadlines of ICD-10, shared savings programs, and PQRS penalties are within that timeframe. This will lead to significant challenges while you’re training a support team on a brand new system while trying to maintain your legacy environment.
Where does the data go?
When implementing a new EHR, there is always the question of whether to migrate data or not. The natural answer is “of course” until you find the proverbial devil in the details. The legacy system may not meet discrete data standards, but rather might rely on custom fields or free text entry. There is rarely the ability to do a true 1:1 mapping and practices either convert a subset of the key data according to important quality and operational measures or the legacy data is migrated to an ambulatory data warehouse.
In either case, however, practices often miss an opportunity to examine and remediate quality of data issues. Using this migration as an opportunity to ensure apples-to-apples measurement based on consistent, dense, and correct data that reflects the quality of care being delivered is one that should not be wasted. Understand that under the future population health model, the quality of how the data is captured in the EHR that will directly drive revenue based on key quality measures. As such, data governance should be a primary consideration in your replacement strategy.
In the coming years, the majority of physician practices will likely move to a new EHR because they are not happy with their current vendor or are forced to adopt a new one due to a merger or acquisition. Multiple implementations are a major grind for physicians and their staff. Implementations should consider readiness and overall practice health.
While the choice of the EHR platform itself and the team that will implement it are the first and most critical decisions to be made, those organizations that focus on a data-based migration strategy from a holistic perspective — one that supports not only the new system but also the old while using the transition as an opportunity to strengthen their core data asset — will ensure they don’t yet another migration in the near future.
Chuck Garrity is regional vice president with Arcadia Healthcare Solutions.