You’re ready for a new EHR. You’ve examined the cost, researched the impact on your ROI, picked an EHR that will suit your practice’s needs, and attended a couple of demos. But there’s one thing holding you back from giving that sales rep the go-ahead: implementation.
Even when you know the new program will be better for you and your clients, you know how challenging it can be to implement a new EHR. You just found your groove with clients, and your intern was getting the hang of your current software, and now you’re switching. But don’t panic, we have 6 ways to help you implement a new EHR, without the tears.
1. Plan Ahead
The first key to successfully implementing a new EHR? Implementing a clear plan and timeline. To create an effective plan, you should conduct a workflow analysis. This will help identify any inefficiencies and streamline processes to improve productivity, which can positively impact revenue. Every organization is unique, but you can begin by asking the following questions:
- What do we do?
- How do we do it?
- Why do we do it?
- What does each department do?
Once you have that information, create a detailed implementation plan that covers every aspect of the transition, including testing, training, and rollout.
Identify potential challenges and allocate resources accordingly. Develop a timeline with realistic milestones to ensure a smooth transition. This will help prevent any unexpected issues that could negatively impact revenue. Your plan should include things like:
- Migrating your data to your new EHR
- Setting up the new platform on various devices (for example, on tablets in addition to desktops)
- Switching clients over to the new portal
- Setting up your organization details in the new platform – payers, client portal, staff, intake forms, clearinghouses, etc.
- Testing to ensure your platform is set up and performing the way you expect it
- Communication and training schedule for users and clients (if needed)
Timing and Communication
Select a period for implementation that minimizes the impact on revenue. Avoid peak seasons or busy periods, if possible. Consider the workload and availability of staff during the transition period. You may need to choose a first implementation time when you’re not busy, then another time for clients (for example, if they need to create a new portal login or to show them how to use your new telehealth platform).
Communicate the upcoming changes to patients and staff members well in advance. Provide clear instructions on how the new system will impact their workflow and what steps they need to take. Address any concerns and provide ongoing support during the transition period.
2. Choose an Implementation Plan That Works for Your Agency
Any EHR worth its price will offer various forms of implementation plans. While everyone does things differently, there are usually 3 primary options:
- Basic: this option is the cheapest (or even free). Usually, this is a self-serve option meant for smaller agencies or for practices that have dedicated staff that can work on implementing the new EHR. You’ll get a few meetings, training videos, or courses, but mostly, you’ll be on your own.
- Intermediate: this option is typically moderately priced but offers additional training and support. While you’re still expected to the majority of the implementation yourself, you receive more in-depth training, additional meetings and support staff to help with questions.
- Advanced: this option is for agencies that want implementation handled by the EHR vendor. While costly, you can take a more hands-off approach to implementing your software for a headache-free experience.
Your EHR vendor might have additional options (a higher tier for more complex needs or additional options in the middle) but this is what you can usually expect.
It’s tempting to go with the cheapest plan available, but you need to consider your agency’s needs and the complexity of implementation. For example, do you need to transfer your previous EHR’s data? Do you have the bandwidth and technical know-how to manage the implementation yourself? How much training will your staff need?
And, of course, consider the additional costs if you start implementation yourself and get stuck halfway through. This isn’t meant to scare you away from self-implementation – if you have the time, staff, and knowledge, go for it – but to ensure you get a clear picture of your agency’s capabilities and how they can impact downtime. The goal is to minimize downtime and problems.
3. Configure Your EHR to Match Your Practice’s Workflow:
One great thing about starting with a new EHR? You can have it fit your practice’s workflows. Customizing your EHR to your practice’s workflow can help optimize productivity and prevent disruptions to revenue. This may include creating templates for common charting or automating certain processes. Remember the workflow analysis we talked about earlier? That’s another way it comes in handy.
But be careful, there’s a common mistake you should absolutely avoid at this step: don’t blindly follow old workflows. After all, you got this new EHR to do things better. Don’t just use a new EHR and apply it to old problems; this is your time to remove bottlenecks, solve issues, and create efficiencies. Work smarter, not harder.
In addition to things like the number of rooms (or locations) and staff permissions, this is where you set up things like:
- Insurance Billing
- Referral Sources
- Credit Card Processing enrollment
- Custom Documentation Templates and Setup
- Client Portal
This is your chance to have your EHR assist you while you work instead of having to conform to how the software wants you to work. By taking full advantage of your EHR’s configuration, you can maximize your ROI and set your practice for success.
4. Test and Optimize
Conduct thorough testing and optimization of the new EHR system before full implementation. Identify any bugs, inefficiencies, or compatibility issues early on, and work with the vendor to address them. This will help ensure a smoother transition and minimize revenue impact.
Ensure accurate and complete data migration from the old system to the new one. Verify the integrity of patient records, billing information, and any other crucial data. This helps prevent revenue loss due to data discrepancies or errors.
Consider a phased approach to implementation, where you gradually introduce the new EHR system to different departments or sections of the practice. This allows for better control and reduces the chances of revenue disruption across the entire practice. You can also focus training efforts per department, spreading yourself less thin.
Some agencies run the old and new EHR systems simultaneously for a short period. This allows for a smoother transition as staff members can still access critical patient information during the implementation. It provides a safety net in case of any unforeseen issues with the new system. Of course, it’s usually more costly, so that depends on your budget.
5. Thorough Training
You knew this was coming. Training can be time-consuming, but it’s your opportunity to set a solid foundation so you and your staff can be more productive.
Your staff just got used to the old system, and now they’re learning a new one. And I thought this new system was supposed to be so intuitive and user-friendly.
Yet this is incredibly important to get right to maximize your new EHR’s impact on ROI. Not just because of the usual reasons training is important either. Here’s the thing: Your EHR should simplify and streamline your workflows. Your EHR should work for you.
The goal of a modern EHR isn’t to put a shiny coat of paint on old tools; it’s automation. That’s harder to navigate than a new scheduling system, but so worth it. During training, don’t just speed through the basics. Your aim shouldn’t be to see which tab has your notes; you should find out how to use your EHR to automate payment processing or appointment reminders.
Here’s how you could set up your training sessions:
- Introduction to the new platform:
- Why are you making this change?
- What are the benefits?
- How will it positively impact the business and users? Make this positive and exciting. Stay away from an overwhelming amount of information.
- First training session: just start with the basics. Show some of your favorite elements of what the platform can do.
- Second training session: this is your time to dig into new workflows and processes that the EHR will be helping you with.
- Follow-up sessions: work through questions that your users may have as they’ve been working in the platform.
- Refresher sessions: Remind users how you want certain workflows to stream. This is also a good time to show best practices and fun tricks.
Take advantage of the support team available to address any issues or questions that arise during and after implementation. This minimizes disruptions and helps staff members navigate the new system effectively.
6. Monitor Key Metrics
Continuously monitor key revenue metrics, such as billing and reimbursement, during and after the transition. Identify any significant deviations from the baseline and take immediate action if revenue is being impacted. Regularly assess the performance of the new system to ensure it aligns with revenue goals. Implementing a new EHR is a lot of work, but it’s also an opportunity to eliminate bottlenecks and make sure your dashboards fit your needs. At this stage, if you’re having issues, you can correct your course without great effort. It becomes much more difficult once the problems become embedded in your operations.
One mistake to avoid here? Don’t compare to the previous EHR; your targets should be dictated by your organization, not your software. You might be used to how you used to do things, and sometimes it’s hard to separate “the right way” with “the way things used to be”.
By following these strategies and best practices, practices can implement a new EHR while minimizing the impact on revenue. Remember that every practice is unique, and the specific strategies employed will depend on factors such as the size of the practice, specialty, and workflow. It’s essential to customize the implementation approach to fit your practice’s needs.
At TheraNest, we know the importance of implementing a new EHR system. That’s why we offer a range of plans that allow organizations to get started at their own pace and hit the ground running. We’ll partner with you to provide the training and tools necessary to minimize downtime and start utilizing TheraNest to support your clients. Discover the power of TheraNest firsthand with our 21-day free trial (no credit card needed).