The Right People for Your EMR Implementation

In order for your electronic medical records (EMR) implementation to team-players.jpgbe successful, you need to get buy-in from your employees. And for that to happen you need some key personnel involved from the get-go. It’s not possible for just one person to handle this task alone, no matter how talented he or she is.

The employees will well understand that a new EMR system will have a profound effect on the practice. They’ll also realize the pressures they are facing at work, and some anxiety is to be expected. Administrators and doctors should understand the top concerns which staff will raise when discussing EMR implementation. And sometimes staff will present with some resistance to the plan.

In our practice we use an integrated EPM/EMR platform but we didn’t switch on the EMR module until we were humming along with the EPM system. Only after the staff were well trained and we had converted all of our useful data from our old EPM system did we attempt to go live with EMR.

We created a group of ‘super-users’; these people were the first trained on elements of the new system, and had the responsibility to bring  the rest of the staff up to speed. Peer-to-peer learning is the most effective, even among physicians. Your super-users should be representative of the various departments, including IT, office staff, compliance, front desk, administration, and clinical.

At our practice we also created an EMR committee that was authorized to hold meetings when necessary – these individuals had run with the project since its inception, and some had put in long days and weekends. They ended up with some decision-making power, as well as the added responsibility that comes along with it. Confidence in the project began to grow from that point on.

Some of the most important staff players include:

Coding/Billing Specialist

This person should have a voice in the initial software selection process. Having their expertise helped to minimize the hiccups we experienced when we switched from our old practice management (EPM) system to the new one. On their recommendation, we performed a trial run on the new system prior to completely abandoning our old system. This allowed our IT specialist to verify that the posting and billing were being performed correctly. Someone technically proficient with coding and compliance issues will be invaluable when your EMR  system goes live – to prevent under- or over-coding and ensure HIPAA compliance.

Clinical Staff

Although not as vital during conversion of your EPM system (unless you are using an integrated system), their participation will be key to the success of the integration of the EMR into the practice. Therefore, it is important to for them to be involved in the early stages of planning; it is helpful for them to have an appreciation for what the non-clinical staff does on the EPM side and how the EMR will fit into the scheme of things.

IT Specialist

This person should be involved from the beginning, even prior to choosing the EMR software. If a practice cannot initially justify the expense of a full-time IT specialist, at the very least an IT consultant should be retained. Because we knew that conversion to EMR was just part of our overall strategic technology plan, we felt we could easily justify hiring a full-time IT specialist. In fact, due to this person’s expertise in such areas as software licensing, internet communications, and hardware networking, the changes that were incorporated into the practice saved enough to cover part of his salary.

Front Desk Staff

They provide valuable input from the perspective of the end-users of the EPM. Their tasks include check-in, check-out, posting of charges, and scheduling. Their critical job prior to the EMR rollout was to help test the design of the posting process at the time of patient check-out. Once we went live with EMR, they had to learn to post the charges electronically in real-time. Having time to get the bugs out of this process helped support our decision to postpone implementation of EMR until the staff was well acclimated to our EPM system.

At our practice the doctors empowered the EMR committee with authority to manage and plan the EPM/EMR integration. Managing partners continue to meet regularly with the administrator for status reports. They also meet with IT to continually tweak the system to improve efficiency. Bottom line: the overall success of the project will depend on the cooperation and involvement of everyone at the organization.

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About Peter Polack

Peter J Polack is founder of emedikon, a medical practice management consulting firm and president of protodrone, a software development company specializing in medical practice applications. A technology columnist for Ophthalmology Management Magazine, he is a managing partner for a large multi-specialty ophthalmology practice in Florida.

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  1. [...] Although it does present the topic from a technical perspective, it does also cover issues important to the CIO or Director of IT such as assessing the financial incentives weighed against implementation costs and a discussion about the importance of the ‘people factor’ as I have previously discussed: (see How to Prepare Your Team for EMR Implementation and The Right People for Your EMR Implementation) [...]

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