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EHR regulations, interoperability top patient record concerns

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Rising healthcare employment rate may aid EHR adoption

Rising employment rates in healthcare means that more resources are available, but facilities installing EHR systems still need to plan carefully.

The employment rate in the healthcare industry is increasing, giving facilities more resources to distribute when they're considering an EHR system installation. But EHR implementation projects still need to be planned and executed with as much care and forethought as possible.

According to a recent job report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall American unemployment rate did not change much during August, hovering around 7.3%. However, the data showed an increase in healthcare employment. "Employment in healthcare increased by 33,000 [jobs] in August," the report reads. "Within the industry, most of the job growth occurred in ambulatory care services."

The industry has seen EHR systems being adopted steadily. But care organizations adopting EHRs are finding the task of allocating resources properly and efficiently to be a challenge.

Regardless of the services that vendors can provide, many medical groups and hospitals recognize the need to have some in-house expertise available to help with change management and other initiatives. Keeping in mind the rising healthcare employment numbers and the mission-critical resources needed for a successful EHR implementation, the following are some critical areas for healthcare facilities to consider when they broach an EHR plan.

Change management. An organization can possess the right products and tools, but it still needs to have the proper mind-set and the ability to engage patients, or else its EHR will fail. Organizations need to ensure that staff members responsible for the implementation of a new EHR system have strong interpersonal skills and can maintain a certain level of patient engagement. This will play a key role in the success of the implementation.

Reporting capabilities. In the pre-EHR days, reporting focused on crunching numbers from financial data or claim information to extract certain patient statistics. As more health data has been captured and reporting requirements have expanded to include almost all federal and payers' programs, many organizations have a need for further reporting. While vendors typically provide a number of canned reports, there are always additional reports that must be developed internally. Doing this requires internal resources who can understand the data, how it is collected, and what it needs to be transformed into.

Other EHR implementation considerations

EHRs call for staff communication

Nurses can help install EHR systems

First EHR vendor selection doesn't always stick

Clinical workflow backgrounds. It's clear to anyone who has adopted a new EHR system that for an implementation to be successful, it has to be carried out with an active clinical committee involved. A clinical committee is a group of individuals with clinical backgrounds who review and optimize proposed workflows to ensure that they're properly used. Internal staff with clinical backgrounds are able to work with the EHR vendor to ensure that new workflows are optimized for the practice and follow the vendor's recommended best practices.

Focus on details. There are many moving parts in an EHR project, including interfaces, data migrations, library lists, and integrations. For the most part, vendors do a good job at providing project plans that can be followed from beginning to end. However, there are still requirements and homework that must be completed at the pre-implementation practice level. Organizations that have used internal project managers working cooperatively with outside vendors have generally experienced successful implementations.

Health IT engagement. New technologies, pay-for-performance programs, medical devices and regulatory requirements are important topics in the healthcare arena. It is critical that the individuals leading an EHR implementation project be well versed in these areas, because they can have a significant financial impact on the organization. Miscalculating meaningful use reporting periods or missing Physician Quality Reporting Initiative deadlines can result in penalties.

About the author: 
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email editor@searchhealthit.com or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

This was first published in October 2013

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Essential Guide

EHR regulations, interoperability top patient record concerns

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