EHR Implementation Tips & Tricks for Smooth Transitions

We’ve all been new at something before, whether that’s riding a bike, cooking an unfamiliar dish, learning to play an instrument, or something totally different. And we all know that even the simplest of new things may be fraught with some amount of uncertainty. So what happens when a practice decides to work with an electronic health record they’ve never used before? As you can imagine, the lift is neither a simple or easy one, and it takes special people with unique skills to help that along.

What does implementation involve?

Any implementation has stages. It typically begins with a discovery phase where you are defining the problem you are solving for, determining what success looks like, and your degree of commitment to the change. This is often a data collection phase for both parties. 

From there, we transition to alignment. In stage 2, your timelines are confirmed and goals are set – preferably small milestones and short, easily-achievable goals that continue throughout the process. 

Stage 3 is validation. At this point, virtual learning should be well underway. Ensure your team is adopting best practices by practicing in the system. Rewrite internal processes and reinforce new workflows, followed by training. 

The final stage is activation, you go live with your solution. Then it’s time to take stock of how you did and assess your knowledge gaps. 

What are the most common pitfalls in implementations?

Some of the most common missteps in defining your strategy or implementation are in communication, engagement, and responsibility. If you haven’t established firm communication with your vendor of choice, established who is responsible for that communication and who, internally, is leading the project, it can be a bumpy ride.

It’s essential that you are clear who is responsible for engaging, for meeting deadlines, for making sure you hit your milestones along the way, and that there’s responsibility each time you engage with your EHR. The person chosen to interface with your vendor needs to have the authority to make decisions in the moment without running them by someone else. And of course, you should avoid entering into an implementation while you’re undergoing construction or going through credentialing or other really big components that could impact you wanting to pursue your project further.

How can my implementation experience go smoothly?

The most important thing you can do to ensure a smooth experience is to fully commit to your training and to learning, and to practice, practice, practice. Do more than just show up. Apply what you’ve learned to what you’re going to be doing day in and day out. Once you’re live, you don’t want to find yourself stuck and thinking, “Oh no. I know how I used to do this, but I don’t know how to apply all these things that I’ve seen in training.” Practice is incredibly important.

Which isn’t to say you might not still find yourself stuck at some point, and that’s ok. That’s when you need to be willing to raise your hand and say, “This isn’t working for me. I need to approach this in a different way.” Because we don’t all learn in the same way, and no two practices look the same. Making sure you show up and that you do your part lets your vendor adapt to your learning needs as you go.

Finally, don’t look at training as a one-and-done situation. If an e-learning module is available two weeks before you go live, don’t just take it on that day and leave it alone till launch day. Come back to it in the interim. Review it. Put in the effort to do your part, and remember that preparation on the part of the learner is just as important as preparation on the part of the implementation team.

It sounds easy, and it should be. Of course not every implementation is going to be a textbook transition, but being present, engaged, and willing to put in the work goes a long way toward ensuring that it is.

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