4 Tips for Switching EMR Systems

If you’ve made the switch from paper documentation to an EMR system, there’s no doubt you’ve already invested time, money, and hard work into implementing it. If this is the case, but you’ve found yourself trapped by an EMR that doesn’t work for your clinic, it doesn’t mean you have to stick it out forever; in fact, you shouldn’t. As a business owner, it can be difficult to stomach the idea of changing EMRs—especially when you have dozens of therapists, multiple locations, and hundreds of patients to consider. But if your EMR is causing you more pain than it’s worth, then it might be time to make the switch to a system that works better for your clinic. And if you do it right, implementing a new EMR system doesn’t have to be a huge imposition. Just consider these tips for a smoother EMR transition:

1.) Define Workflow

If you’re planning to switch EMR systems, revisiting your business strategy is probably a no-brainer. But something to consider (beyond number crunching) is the crucial step of defining—and possibly redesigning—your clinical workflow. It’s important that your staff understands how the new EMR functionality can help improve everyday operations. HealthIT.Gov further stresses the importance of this process: “Workflow redesign can help your organization:

  • Maximize efficiencies

  • Enhance health care quality and safety

  • Remove chaos from your current workflow

  • Improve care coordination

Simply put, workflow redesign is important because it helps you get the most value from EHR implementation.”

As you define—and redesign—your processes, you’ll discover your current system’s weaknesses. Additionally, you’ll be armed with a concrete list of ways a new system can improve your workflow. As you go through demonstrations for various EMRs, refer to this list and see which vendor checks off most (if not all) of your requirements.  

2.) Develop Leadership

Switching EMRs can be a lengthy process, and having leaders in place to help bear the burden is a solid first step toward success. However, during this transition, it’s crucial that your leaders are not only in place, but also prepared to tackle change. As Glenn Llopis explains in this Forbes article, “If leaders don’t feel comfortable with renewal and reinvention, they will begin to lose their impact and influence quickly. Change is the new normal for leadership success and all leaders must accept this fact.”

If your leaders have trouble communicating during times of change, talk them through challenging situations and offer any leadership training resources you have at your disposal—whether that’s a book or simply a candid conversation. Additionally, be open and honest in your own communication. The last thing you need during a transitional period is a game of EMR telephone. With strong leaders at the helm, your staff has a better chance at sailing smoothly through system-changing tides.

3.) Determine Champions

In addition to ensuring your leaders are prepared to communicate and support your staff through the business changes that lie ahead, you’ll need to designate champions within your clinics. A champion is a knowledgeable staff member who’s tech-savvy, respected amongst his or her colleagues, and totally on board with your plan to change systems. On the subject of technology adoption champions, Harvard Business Review urges employers to “Devise a program to nurture your digital champions, as they are key to transformation success and will most likely be your organization’s future digital leaders.”

Once you’ve chosen your champions, give them decision-making power and define the time commitment you expect from them. As you work through scheduling, keep your timelines realistic and have your clinic leaders carve out dedicated times for champions to be involved in strategic planning. The ultimate goal is to nurture your employees without taking away too much time from what matters most—treating patients.

4.) Dedicate Time

Slow and steady wins the race, right? This old cliché might be cheesy, but it’s spot-on in illustrating the importance of taking your time—especially when it comes to technology adoption. Before you resume your everyday operations with a new system in place, you’ll want dedicated, uninterrupted training time. Also, depending on your staff’s proficiency, it might be beneficial to schedule small breaks between patients to allow therapists more time for documentation—at least initially. This way, the therapists learn how to document on the spot without waiting until the end of the day to complete all their notes.

As you consider different vendors, look for a web-based and compliant EMR that has onsite training. This allows your staff the opportunity to use the software in a realistic setting with the guidance of a knowledgeable representative. In addition to onsite training, you’ll also want to look for a system that offers free customer service and additional on-demand online training (on-demand resources are especially helpful when one of your staff members needs a short refresher or you need to train a new employee). Even better? Find an EMR that offers all of the aforementioned options as well as an online training system that includes tests and quizzes for benchmarking employee progress.

As a business owner, it’s up to you to set the expectation for technology adoption in your clinics. Making the switch to a new EMR is far from impossible, and if you keep the above tips in mind, you’re likely to get through the process headache-free.