Deciding on an upgraded EHR system is certainly rewarding, but during the search, many practices overlook what the implementation process with their new vendor will entail. The advantages of a robust and customizable software require patience and teamwork, but you also want to make sure you won’t be left to figure out a complicated platform on your own.
We spoke with a couple of EHR implementation experts to learn what to expect and questions to ask potential EHR software companies before signing a contract.
Understanding the Implementation Process
Onboarding & Setting Expectations
After a provider signs a contract, they typically start the onboarding process. This should entail using a collaborative tool where the provider and their implementation specialist can establish visibility into the road ahead along with tasks the provider should complete to set up their account. They should also set up a kickoff call to discuss goals, expectations and to schedule next steps.
Once scheduled, over the course of these meetings, you should be guided through basic functions like scheduling appointments, messaging patients and navigating other features such as reporting tools. After completing these steps, you will likely move on from implementation into working with an account manager for the remainder of your term.
Time from Start to Finish
With platforms like DrChrono, most practices will be able to go live after 30 to 60 days, but the timeline ranges by vendor. With the help of training sessions, however, you’ll usually get some immediate use out of the system even before the full go-live. Sometimes, this timeline can come as a bit of a surprise for providers who may be under the impression that the software will be set up for their practice and ready to use almost immediately after signing up.
However, navigating EHR software can require a steep learning curve. If you want to get the most out of a customizable EHR, collaboration with your implementation specialist is critical, as is patience and knowing that the more you use it, the easier it will get.
Common Hurdles Practices Face During Implementation
Features & App Integrations
Make sure to ask about features that are important to your specialty during the sales process. IS teams are full of product experts, but if the platform doesn’t have a key feature or an integration to cover it, their hands are tied. Thankfully, EHRs with open APIs will have a wide variety of partner integrations that can provide solutions that may not be native to the platform. Having a vision of all of the solutions you plan to plug in to your EHR right when you sign up can make your implementation experience run much smoother!
If your practice is switching over to a new medical EHR, you will need to transfer your data from your old vendor. Before signing a new contract, follow up with your current platform to learn what they charge to export your data. This is vital information as costs vary by EHR and can be high depending on how much data you have and what types of data you are asking to export (we highly suggest choosing an EHR that does not charge you if you decide to switch software down the road). EHRs that integrate with apps like Healthjump, an industry-leading healthcare data interfacing company, can assist you with getting data migrated rather than engaging your EHR directly. Services like Healthjump can reduce the migration timeline, and let’s face it: it is in Healthjump’s best interest to help you migrate as much of your data as possible, while the EHR that is losing your business may not feel this way.
Medical Billing & Credentialing
Finally, if your practice will be purchasing billing services in addition to the EHR, it is highly encouraged that someone on your staff is well-versed in medical billing. Unless you will be taking advantage of RCM services, you will find it difficult to navigate the intricacies of medical billing, no matter the software you use. It is also particularly important to complete the necessary credentialing requirements with payers if you are a new practice.
Communication & Collaboration
Of course, implementing a software that will manage nearly every aspect of your practice is not necessarily a cakewalk, but many of these issues can be avoided with proper communication between the vendor and client, as well as the client and their staff.
It is also essential that everyone in your practice is on the same page with regards to the platform you plan to adopt. Thrusting such a complicated software into the hands of an unsuspecting medical staff can grind implementation to an uncomfortable standstill. Pick a point of contact in your office who can effectively and enthusiastically communicate with your staff.
Implementation Red Flags During the EHR Search
Not all implementation processes are created equal. A rushed, unstructured implementation can strain your experience with a platform from the get-go. Look for these standards when considering electronic medical record software.
Clearly Structured Modules
Each session with your implementation specialist should have a clear goal in mind. Focusing on features one step at a time with the right people from your team involved will allow for more thorough mastery along the way.
You will almost certainly have questions as you try to grasp your new software. Your IS will be there to assist as those come up. When they aren’t immediately available, you should have access to support via ticketing or chat.
Additional Learning Resources
Even with the help of the most available IS team, you will want to be able to quickly find answers to some of your questions on your own. Having access to a library of tutorial articles and videos, such as DrChrono’s support library (especially a Video Tutorial Library), can make all the difference as you navigate through the software. Some EHRs like DrChrono even have in-app guides that walk you through the software’s common functions step by step.
These are just a few tips to a successful EHR implementation, but with the large variety of EHR solutions available, these processes can certainly vary. When you are assessing the features and functionality of each system, carve out some time to make sure you will be properly supported during the implementation process before committing to a platform.