How Professional Services Ensure Successful EHR Adoption

Professional services to support EHR adoption abound, but few are truly suited to the task.

After a decade of digital transformation, the electronic health record (EHR) is now a core component of modern healthcare. EHR technology is essential to providing appropriate care to patients and ensuring proper reimbursement from public and private payers. 

However, the technology can also be a source of frustration due to the increasing demands of clinical documentation which can be difficult to meet during the workday. “Simply installing the system without proper training and feature customization will slow productivity and create new problems,” the American Medical Association warned more than a year ago.

EHR technology is a long-term investment that requires ongoing support throughout its lifecycle, not just during EHR implementation. 

While nearly every healthcare organization is seeking to unlock the full potential of their EHR investment, limited resources often mean health systems, hospitals, and physician practices are increasingly turning to outside resources. 

But these organizations need to think carefully about the expertise they are seeking, according to Douglas Herr, Senior Director of EHR Services at Nuance Communications.

“We're seeing an increased demand for EHR consulting services,” he said. “There's an oversaturated market, but a large number of them are not technology firms.” 

Experience can vary greatly as well. In many cases, interactions with EHR technology are limited to the implementation process or one-offs, for example. 

“Many of these services firms are not in a partnership with the leading EHR companies. Rather, their resources only have expertise with one specific application and have likely worked on single short-term projects across a handful of firms. There's the risk of quality, there's the risk of a range of skills,” added Herr.

In other words, the true value of external services is more than experience; it comes down to specialized and up-to-date knowledge of a given EHR technology, so it can be applied to address needs beyond implementation. 

By augmenting your in-house staff with project-based personnel, Herr noted, many healthcare organizations find it eases their workload while providing an opportunity to develop their knowledge of the EHR system — key for both retaining and attracting new employees. 

“This is a big one,” Herr continued. “Many times, staff members are joyous and excited when they're put on a new project and are learning and expanding their skill set versus the day-to-day monotony of system maintenance.” 

Given the investment involved, organizations are driven to continually improve the productivity and effectiveness of EHR users. Expert assistance pre-, mid-, and post-implementation can ensure a smooth transition to a new EHR system or major upgrade and promote ongoing growth in user satisfaction and efficiency. 

Once an organization has deployed new EHR technology, optimization efforts can ease the user experience by significantly improving EHR workflows. 

An EHR system out of the box is not perfectly suited to each physician specialty. By observing users and assessing EHR configurations, optimization experts can make recommendations that make it easier for users to create accurate, thorough documentation that supports patient care and protects appropriate reimbursement and medical liability.

“Sometimes, we get too excited about the technology and its capabilities, and we sometimes disconnect inadvertently from the users and patients who aren't comfortable with that technology,” Herr added.

Experts in EHR optimization and training can monitor user performance with analytics and address problem areas with targeted support and training. Adding new technologies, like those using natural language processing and artificial intelligence, also present an opportunity to streamline data capture.

According to Herr, achieving a return on investment for EHR technology can take many forms, based on the goals of healthcare organizations.

“The real challenge isn't necessarily finding the ROI. It's achieving a level of ROI that is beneficial to the organization,” Herr explained. “That means that they need to market and showcase the capabilities of the system to the users so each individual buys into the technology to see the benefit.”

EHR technology will continue to play a central role in healthcare. With the right expertise at the right time, healthcare organizations can ensure that it supports effective care today and into the future.

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