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Top 4 challenges of EHR implementation

Article-Top 4 challenges of EHR implementation

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An understanding of electronic health record systems alongside an experienced vendor promises competitive advantages in the industry.

The US government and healthcare regulators have been encouraging healthcare organisations to adopt electronic health records software since 2009. Though many care providers praise EHRs for their multiple benefits, others, especially small and medium-sized practices, are hesitant to join the trend due to the difficulties the implementation poses. To successfully implement an EHR system, providers must first of all clearly understand which obstacles are holding them back and how to get around them.

Cost of EHR implementation

Many healthcare practitioners consider EHR implementation too expensive for their budgets. The ONC estimated that upfront costs for an EHR licence are between US$15,000 and US$70,000. Some providers opt for SaaS solutions that cost cheaper upfront but have a higher yearly price. However, this type of EHR comes with its hidden costs — it is more difficult to implement, personnel training takes longer, and customisation is comparably expensive.

We advise healthcare practitioners who are on the fence about implementing electronic health records to decide which features are the most important and nice to have and start with a more basic version of EHR software. If the budget is tight, a healthcare organisation can always go for a virtually free SaaS EHR with a limited feature set that is monetised via advertisements shown to doctors and patients.

However, many of the cheaper or open-source systems are not properly certified, so you will not be able to meet the Meaningful Use criteria and thus qualify for reimbursement. Therefore, sometimes it is more economically viable to go for a more expensive certified solution. All in all, carefully research and consider your options before embarking on an implementation journey, because most providers get ROI on their EHR in two to three years after the adoption.

Related: Top 3 electronic health record implementation risks and how to manage them

Burnout among healthcare professionals

Definitive Healthcare and Vocera found out that 77 per cent of healthcare professionals heavily associate daily EHR-related tasks with burnout. The reason is the cognitive overload of filling out multiple forms while paying attention to alerts of varied priority and conversing with patients and colleagues. That is why physician-owned healthcare organisations put off adopting software out of fear it will reduce their personnel’s job satisfaction.

To avoid such negative effects, hospitals need to consider EHR usability during the software selection phase. A majority of clinicians agree that intuitive interfaces, fewer pop-up windows, and more intelligent alert routing would drastically improve their satisfaction with the system. Another valuable EHR implementation step that should never be skipped is user training. Research shows that clinicians who received sufficient EHR training are generally more satisfied and less likely to burn out than their untrained colleagues.

Data governance of EHR

Electronic health records can be a valuable source of data for healthcare analytics. If processed correctly, patient information stored in such systems can help improve the efficiency of the healthcare industry. But if leaked, such data can damage lives, reputations, and the well-being of millions of people. Thus, one of the main tasks of an EHR system is to make sure patient data stays safe, secure, relevant, and accessible for proper processing.

However, the qualities of the software itself alone are not enough to ensure proper data management. Any healthcare organisation should have a solid data governance strategy that covers all aspects of patient data handling, including how it is acquired, stored, transferred, and disposed of in the EHR system. Personnel who work with patient data in any capacity should also understand their organisation’s strategy and have sufficient information and training to follow it.

Related: MEA marks advances in electronic health record systems

Early-stage interoperability

The EHR interoperability issue gained the spotlight during the pandemic when doctors simply did not have time to transfer data from one system to another manually, but it continues to be a headache for many healthcare organisations. Manual data transfer contributes to errors, duplicates, and clinicians’ dissatisfaction. It is also one of the reasons for untimely or inappropriate clinical decisions regarding patients transferred from one facility to another, as clinicians do not receive timely patient history due to the inability to transfer it from one EHR to another.

This problem makes healthcare professionals question why they should adopt EHR software at all if it does not help them streamline interactions between various providers or even departments. This is why hospitals should consider interoperability during the earliest stages of EHR implementation and enquire about the interoperability options of the software they are planning to adopt.

Additionally, healthcare organisations can hire a consultant and integration services provider to ensure their software is well-incorporated into the healthcare IT ecosystem and can exchange data safely and quickly.

In conclusion, electronic health records software can help healthcare providers get competitive advantages and serve their patients better. Unfortunately, implementing EHRs comes with a set of challenges that turn many healthcare organisations away from adopting a system. Some providers find the software too expensive, others worry about security, and many hospitals do not want to put additional pressure on their personnel.

To successfully implement an EHR, a provider should clearly understand their requirements for the system and partner with a reliable and experienced vendor that will guide them.

Sergey Ivanov is the Head of Healthcare Solutions Department at iTransition.

This article appears in Omnia Health magazine. Read the full issue online today.

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