The transition to an EHR platform is often quite overwhelming for medical practices. After the big job of EHR selection and implementation is done, there is a tendency to just go with the flow, that is, not assess gains and tackle potential pain points. Here are some post-implementation best practices to consider.

1. Avoid fixating on the computer screen

Person-to-person and eye contact is essential to customer engagement. When you’re meeting new patients or they’re describing their problems, take your hands off the keyboard and mouse, and give them your complete attention. Even when you have started recording their data, you can continue conversing with them and pointing to the screen to indicate results or other information that they can benefit from knowing.

2. Make staff training a strategic priority

While you may have a training program in place, it should also include feedback from staff and quick resolutions of any adoption challenges that some employees may be facing. One way is to designate one or more super-users with a comprehensive understanding of the EHR system to guide the rest and bring them up to speed. When deployed as an early initiative, this can prevent frustrations and/or sub-optimal use of the system.

3. Keep tabs on resource utilization and efficiency gains

One of the most recognizable benefits of electronic health records is the elimination of hard copies and the hassles of maintaining them securely and continuously. An obvious source of cost savings is the stationery department – ink, paper and printer ink. A bigger advantage is in the area of staff efficiency: your employees can conserve their energy and save time with a digital solution that simplifies and streamlines administration as well as billing and patient communication.

Are these gains apparent in staff or patient satisfaction levels? It will be impossible to start seeing results within a few months, but you should have a good idea one year after the EHR system has been in use. During the early months of adoption, encourage employees to communicate their opinions and concerns openly, and check up on progress and satisfaction after 12 months.

4. Invest in continuous quality improvement

After your EHR system has been in use for a while, communicate a continuous quality improvement (CQI) philosophy that inspires you and your employees to ask what can you do better, where can you be more efficient, how can you save more time, and in what specific ways can you enhance the effectiveness of your practice? Consider the following framework to integrate continuous improvement into your EHR-driven practice:

• Establish a model for quality improvement

• Optimize your EHR keeping in mind how people, processes and the technology itself can help you achieve meaningful use and forward your mission in the future.

• Set metrics to measure the improvement efforts and results

• Confirm that all staff members understand the metrics for success

• Include patients in your quality improvement activities

While there are a number of CQI strategies exclusive to healthcare, one that is relatively simpler to understand is The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Model of Improvement.

5. Establish controls for remote workers accessing records

Medical practices can conveniently access their EHR system from a remote location via an internet-enabled device. It has been seen to increase timeliness of interventions, lower overall travel costs for physicians, and enable physicians to simultaneously access the same information to facilitate group assessments and accelerate diagnosis.

Though these benefits are highly appreciated, it can create concerns over data security and unauthorized access. While a complete EHR system (as designated by the Certification Commission of Healthcare Technology) such as Centricity EHR ensures secure transmission of data, it is best to create rules around access for the highest levels of data security.

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