The #1 Thing Most Healthcare Organizations Miss When Planning for an EHR

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Right now, everyone in healthcare is talking about Electronic Health Records (EHRs) because 2016 marks the last year that an organization can begin their EHR process and receive Medicaid benefits. You know you’ll have to start planning for your own transition to EHRs soon, but you’ve heard some horror stories from your colleagues and you can’t afford to waste time or money with a troublesome implementation. What can you do?

Luckily, you came to the right place. Most software troubles occur because organizations skip a critical planning step, thinking that it’s too hard to accomplish. In this article, you’ll learn the step-by-step process that will prepare you not only for a smooth EHR implementation, but also for an effective, responsive system that helps staff and patients improve care quality for years to come. Ready? Let’s dive in.

Your Key to Success: Workflow Redesign
As a healthcare organization, your key to success will be workflow redesign, the process of determining what a patient currently goes through in the course of their care, including wait time and bottlenecks, and then deciding how you’d like that to change.

According to a recent American Society on Quality survey on improving tech implementations in healthcare organizations, 78% of polled health care professionals named “designing workflows that improve efficiency and technology adoption as the No. 1 way to improve tech implementation,” and The National Learning Consortium states that “a lack of thorough workflow planning is one of the biggest reasons for avoidable losses in productivity and extended work days.”

Why is this process so important? Because you certainly don’t want your new, expensive software to replicate the same problems you’ve been seeing for some time – you want it to make work better and easier, so you can get more done faster.

Steps to Redesign Your Workflow
Workflow redesign can sound like a daunting task, but once you know what to do it’s really not that hard. However, it does take time, so it’s worth it to start planning now. Follow the steps below to be as fast and efficient as possible:

1. Assign the right team
According to The National Learning Consortium, your best workflow redesign team will consist of 5-8 multidisciplinary people from within your organization, ideally volunteers. No one responsible for the software implement should be on this team, but they should be available for questions and support.

2. Figure out how you’re going to map your processes
Most people have experience making lists and charts, but your workflow redesign team should be familiar with common flowcharting symbols and standardized flowcharts for healthcare practitioners. Alternately, many organizations use a series of Post-its on the wall (with a specific step written on each Post-it), and others use flip charts.

3. Brainstorm and list processes
Start listing all the things that need to happen before, during and after patient care. From patient check-in to appointment scheduling to lab orders to discharge, there are a lot of data-collection and sharing processes. Start thinking about what information needs to be available at a provider’s fingertips at any given time, then think about how they get that information.

4. Prioritize your process selection
Look at your brainstormed list and cross off the things that don’t need focus, such as simple tasks or ones that involve a single, dedicated person. Focus all your attention on ones that (a) involve multiple stakeholders, (b) cause bottlenecks and/or (c) cause errors.

5. Determine where each process starts and finishes
Figure out where your prioritized processes begin and end. Patient check in begins with your patient coming in the door and ends once their paperwork is updated; a simple process. Lab results begin with your patient coming in the door, but end when you’ve got lab results in your hand; a complex process involving multiple units and a lot of movement due to sample collection and analysis.

6. Start with the big picture then work even smaller
Don’t get lost in the weeds. Keep things moving by first mapping the high-level overview of each process, then breaking them down into tasks, and then into steps. It may help to physically walk through each process (and backtrack if you need to).

7. Analyze your process
Once you have each process documented, look to see where wait times are longest, when bottlenecks occur, when information handoffs happen, and when the process forks.

8. Fix your process
Now that you know what your problems and slowdowns are, you can work on making them better. Most of this improvement will consist of identifying where your organization wastes time and energy, then simplifying, combining or entirely eliminating steps to make everything flow faster and easier between each stage of your patient care.

This technique of making processes easier to follow is called “lean” methodology, a way to increase delivered value while reducing necessary resources. Because healthcare organizations have many compliance needs and complex systems, they especially benefit from lean methodology – but it takes a lot of objective thinking. If your team is struggling with distancing themselves from “the way things have always been done,” it may help to call in a lean methodology specialist.

Beware Other Hazards
Though workflow redesign is a critical step for successful EHR implementations, workflows won’t help you combat poor tech interface, confusingly written directions or unaddressed compliance issues. These obstacles can be overcome, but you’ll need someone with healthcare IT experience to help you take care of the details.

Silent IT has a strong history of helping healthcare groups and hospitals maximize their ROI through lean methodology paired with up-to-date, secure and compliant software that improves your organization’s overall efficiency.

Contact Mike Lagger (mlagger@makeitsilent.com) to learn how we can help you plan and improve your EHR implementation.