You’ve made the decision: It’s time to implement a new EMR system at your home health or hospice agency. Whatever the reason for the switch, whether it was made to better accommodate your growth or more efficiently track compliance, a big undertaking is ahead of both you and your staff. But as intimidating as the implementation process may seem, it’s important to embrace this period of change as one of excitement and new beginnings, and the opportunity to make your agency’s goals of providing a higher level of patient care a reality.
The implementation process can seem vague and overwhelming, but breaking it down into tangible, realistic steps will help you reduce headaches for you and your staff on the way to happier outcomes. To guide you, here are five tips for successful EMR implementation in home health:
1. Identify pain points ahead of time
Reflecting on and analyzing the specific needs of your home health agency well before the actual implementation process begins is key to a smooth transition. While home health agencies have certain demands of their EMR solutions in common, there are also policies, procedures and challenges unique to each that must be addressed. When you take the time to consider how you want your new EMR to work for you, there are fewer surprises during implementation.
A major duty is to document and analyze your agency’s current daily workflow. Identify the pain points in this workflow, areas you can save time and streamline processes. You can then use these pain points in conversations with your vendor to guide the implementation process.
It’s especially important to document existing workflow issues because otherwise, any new issues after implementation of the software may be incorrectly attributed to the EMR, Medical Economics noted.
“It’s like shining a bright light” on the unique problems facing your agency, said Paul Kleeburg, M.D., clinical director for the Minnesota and North Dakota Regional Extension Assistance Center for HIT, in an interview with the site.
2. Establish staff implementation leaders
It’s vital that the entirety of a home health agencies staff, from IT personnel to clinicians and administrative staff, are not only trained in the new system, but involved with and aware of the implementation process from day one. Maintaining open channels of communication is key to smooth implementation, advised Electronic Health Reporter. An inclusive training environment helps ease staff into new workflows and helps reduce feelings of frustration or of being left out of important decisions.
One way to improve employee morale and strengthen knowledge-sharing during the implementation process is to establish staff leaders for the process. These “champions” can serve as helpful resources for staff and can help ensure implementation is a collective, group process and not one person making a decision on his own for the entire group.
3. Consider compliance
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Regulatory Audit Contractors and state agencies are placing increasing focus on compliance in home health, and the implementation process for a new EMR is a great time to reassess how your agency is ensuring it’s compliant. Simple data entry errors or unorganized patient files can cause documentation errors, which can not only delay or prevent payment, but can trigger an audit – even when no fraud was intended, of course. That’s why it’s wise to make sure all staff are trained in how the new EMR will help support compliance.
4. Plan for bumps during the transition
During the implementation process, all attention may be focused on learning the new system – but it’s important to also account for the ways the current workflow will be altered, to make sure things don’t fall by the wayside. Talk with your vendor about how you will minimize any negative impact on patient care and employee productivity during the time your staff is acclimating to the new system. Talk with your vendor about how you will migrate existing data to the new EMR, as well as how to ensure patient care is not affected in between when the previous system is shuttered and the new one goes live.
5. Work hands on with the vendor
A valuable home healthcare and hospice software solutions provider should offer regular learning opportunities and involved customer support at all stage of the implementation process, as well as follow-up check-ins after the system is live. Expert vendors know first-hand the common struggles with EMR implementations and will work closely with you and your staff to ensure the transition process goes smoothly. Don’t stand by the sidelines during implementation – be sure to air any concerns and take advantage of all the training opportunities available to you and your team.
A new EMR holds the promise of improved patient care, but implementation can seem like a challenging roadblock on the way. An industry-leading healthcare and hospice software solutions vendor will help your agency every step of the way to make the implementation process go smoothly. Be sure to speak with the expert team at Thornberry to learn how they handle this important transition. And if you have not yet chosen your agency’s new EMR, download Thornberry’s Software Evaluation Checklist here.