Optimizing EHRs From Implementation Through Post-Go-Live
Oct 18, 2022
If you’re at all familiar with digital transformation in healthcare, you know that the operational integration of digital technology can improve processes, uncover new ways to deliver care, and help meet the needs of a wider array of patient communities. Advancements in electronic health record (EHR) technology are no different. They provide an exciting opportunity for healthcare organizations to improve patient care and streamline daily operations—all the while maximizing reimbursements.
However, fully integrating and optimizing an EHR is often a daunting process. Healthcare organizations need to understand that EHR implementation is much more than a standard process—it’s a change management project. Ignoring that aspect means lowering the investment’s value. Healthcare organizations must approach implementation with care. Otherwise, it defeats the initial drive and purpose of the technology in the first place.
When working with an EHR platform, it’s important to understand what the technology enables and how to fully utilize it. From streamlining processes for cost and time savings to improving the patient experience, this guide covers important benefits of EHR implementation, how to create widespread adoption of a new EHR platform, and—perhaps most importantly—how to continually optimize the EHR and related processes to increase value over time.
Why Healthcare Organizations Need to Modernize EHR Technology
Healthcare organizations are businesses, and businesses succeed when they can run smoothly. EHRs are an important part of this process. Switching away from manual records—or outdated technology and siloed electronic records that can’t be exchanged within an organization—provides a better quality of care for patients while reducing costs.
Even older EHRs are easier to read, record, and search through than manual records, but modern EHRs take things a step further. Today’s EHR can automatically flag potential drug interactions when new medications are prescribed, and the robust documentation makes it easier to identify—and close—care gaps. When information can be more easily shared among a patient’s specialized care providers in a singular healthcare organization, each physician gets a more complete picture of the patient’s health. The result is a team of healthcare workers acting in tandem to provide the highest-quality care possible.
Speaking of patients, it’s important to remember that when you look at a healthcare organization as a true business, your patients are the consumers. They expect the same customer experience they have come to expect from any other business, and it’s important to meet those expectations—otherwise, you could lose their business. They expect convenience, even more so now with the rise of telemedicine adoption during the pandemic, which has become a mainstay. According to a recent study:
75% of people say they conduct primary care visits via telehealth.
72% of people say they conduct chronic care visits via telehealth.
39% of people say they’ve conducted COVID-19 screenings via telehealth.
26% of people say they utilize telehealth for mental health concerns.
22% of people say they’ve utilized telehealth in the past four weeks.
11% of people utilize video appointments for telehealth.
To remain competitive, providers and payers alike must start exploring ways to introduce greater technology innovation in healthcare by opening the digital front doors with a modern and optimized EHR. In doing so, organizations can provide all the modern conveniences to help improve the patient experience from beginning to end. Even today’s in-patient visits come with different expectations from those of just a few years ago.
How to Ensure a Smooth EHR Implementation
Benefits aside, there appear to be more than a few obstacles on the path to successful technology innovation in healthcare, largely associated with the processes used for managing organizational change. In fact, 60% of change projects fail due to poor organization. Change management in healthcare isn’t something providers should leave to chance, especially when it comes to EHR implementation.
Any new technology solution has the potential to disrupt workflows, which can pose problems for the quality-of-care delivery. EHR implementation falls squarely within this category, as it can create momentary disruptions to longstanding practices. It also requires team members to learn new ways of performing their day-to-day work to ensure no gaps in information occur between patient visits. Proper change management in healthcare can go a long way to ensuring the interoperability of all systems.
Though the process does have its own complexities, approaching EHR implementation as a change management project does not need to be overwhelming. It can actually be simple, so long as healthcare leaders understand the strategy behind managing organizational change.
After Implementation, How Do Leaders Encourage Widespread EHR Adoption?
There’s no point in adopting new technology if no one is properly using it. This is especially true for EHRs, as the initial cost of implementation is offset by the value driven by long-term use.
That’s why CTG takes a comprehensive approach to our EHR implementation and optimization projects. Industry knowledge, methodology, go-live experience, and the technology itself all contribute to EHR adoption rates—and these are all a part of CTG’s wheelhouse. Our attention is focused on tackling problems that could prevent widespread adoption—chief among them being:
Reducing Patient Barriers
In many patients’ minds, especially among older patients, creating an account just opens them up to data theft. The whole process can feel very unnerving, as they don’t necessarily know where that information is going and who will ultimately have access to the details of their lives. It’s much easier and safer to speak to a real person—either face-to-face or over the phone.
Another issue is access to technology. Patients without reliable access to the internet or a computer may have difficulties with EHRs. They may need help finding resources, such as local libraries, to access their medical records.
Providers should also anticipate language barriers. Patient portals that offer only English language options can disenfranchise nonnative English speakers. In addition, a lack of health literacy in some areas means even people who primarily speak English could have difficulty understanding all the health terminology.
By anticipating these issues ahead of time, staff can receive early training and support on how to approach patients about EHR capabilities. When providers are taught how to introduce EHRs strategically and support their use along the way, patients will feel more empowered and connected to their healthcare providers.
One of the main benefits of EHR implementation is the ability to streamline processes, as the system can take over many of the manual, more repetitive tasks of the administrative team. Billing alone can be almost completely automated through the patient portal, even sending notifications when a bill is due, allowing patients to make payments via the system. This can save healthcare organizations both time and money, as dollars once devoted to billing management and debt collection can be used elsewhere.
However, it isn’t just the administrative team who can experience productivity gains. Physicians do as well, so it’s important to make sure they know this. The automation available through EHR technology ensures that doctors can access more accurate information and quickly respond to patients’ questions and concerns through the patient portal. They also can triage certain questions to nurses should the situation demand, as might be the case with drug interactions. The time saved and efficiency gained can be substantial, and communicating that message throughout the organization can change the view around EHR implementation from burdensome change to optimizing evolution.
Growing ROI by Continually Optimizing EHRs
One of the greatest errors healthcare organizations can make with EHR implementation is forgetting about it post-go-live. Technology is continually improving, and there are always new ways to optimize workflows. Once the storm of implementation and adoption has settled, leadership needs to be asking themselves, “What’s next?” This is how organizations can truly maximize the value of their EHRs.
The first stop on the journey from implementation to optimization should always be comparing intended value and actualized results. A gap almost always persists in the first iteration. This is not a failure—even the best-laid change management plans can’t account for every hiccup.
It could be that staff needs some ongoing training and support. Perhaps it’s the patients who need more help. Whatever the problem, CTG is here to help you find a solution. Even if implementation went off without a hitch, healthcare organizations can still find ways to optimize their EHR workflows.
For example, an organization serving a large Medicare Advantage population may benefit from integrating hierarchical condition category (HCC) coding software with its EHR. After all, the complexity of HCC coding can cause it to be neglected by already overworked staff. Automating the process ensures more accurate risk adjustment factor scores for patients, which means greater funding and care for MA individuals.
For Medicare Advantage plans alone, a provider can expect improvements in retrospective revenue of $100–$200 per member per year. Prospective revenue is even higher, with improvements ranging from $1,000–$2,000 PMPY.
But that’s not the only way to grow the value of EHR software. As time goes on, providers will find more and more ways to ease the burden on staff and improve patient care through EHRs. After all, the digital transformation of the healthcare industry has only just begun. With continual, rapid improvements to technology, a reliable technology partner is critical to offering the expertise necessary to use technology to its fullest and scale the solutions throughout the organization.
If you’d like to learn more about how CTG can support your EHR implementation and optimization, don’t hesitate to get in touch. A member of our team is always available to answer questions and explore all the possible solutions for your unique healthcare organization.