5 tips for switching to a new EHR

Healthcare providers looking to replace their electronic health record platforms are in the majority these days.

Several strategic factors are driving EHR replacement trends. With the passing of the HITECH Act in 2009, a number of EHR start-ups quickly entered the market without the necessary depth and breadth to support big-picture industry goals.

Medical practices, likewise, selected technology primarily to receive federal incentive dollars, deploying limited infrastructures without a clear long-term strategy. As these organizations aim to make the shift from volume to value, they are starting to recognize they need more powerful and comprehensive EHR technology to be successful. Top-line functionality to consider includes accountable care, meaningful use, as well as robust project and change management.

Moving forward, organizations must think about how their EHR can guide them through a complex and changing future. Here are five tips for accomplishing that:

1. Allocate adequate resources. Don't skimp on finances and expertise to ensure that fundamental systems -- care documentation, coding, billing and so on -- remain intact while improvements support emerging needs, such as population health management programs, capturing total cost of care of certain populations or employing predictive analytics based on risk-analysis.

2. Leverage and build on lessons learned from the first EHR investment. Today, buyers and users at healthcare organizations are more sophisticated and have witnessed first-hand what technology can do to the practice of medicine -- both good and bad. Practices should seize the opportunity to apply lessons learned and be more intentional when selecting and onboarding new solutions.

3. Vet new EHR technology. This must involve actively seeking provider feedback and buy-in. Physicians should take a hard look at processes and align EHR strategies to improve workflows -- a step often skipped in prior EHR implementations. Often, when end-users are engaged and have the opportunity to offer input from selection to go-live, the rates of adoption and effectiveness rise exponentially, better positioning the organization for longer-term success.

4. Employ a prescriptive methodology should around usage. Many legacy EHRs made their mark with early adopters by allowing organizations to implement a variation based on individual clinician preferences that appealed to a wide range of providers instead of a best-practices methodology. In the value-based landscape, minimizing variances in care becomes more critical to ensure consistent quality while keeping costs in check. Consequently, organizations should become prescriptive in their approach to EHR use. By implementing best practices across an organization, a facility can not only realize more reliable care but also better capture the entire patient experience.

5. Consider the business side. Risk contract management, revenue cycle operations, patient collections, they all matter. Keep business functions responsive and nimble to keep pace with emerging regulations, developing requirements and new strategies.

Retiring an old solution and onboarding a new one can be expensive and resource-intensive. Choosing technology wisely from the outset, and making sure it's used properly, will enable organizations to better plan for and leverage platforms for future initiatives.

Monte Sandler is executive vice president of RCM and Michael Lovett is executive vice president and general manager at NextGen Healthcare