When is it Time to Switch your EHR?

Health IT executives often ask me, “Should I switch my EHR because of (the reasons vary)?” The basis of the issues that frustrate the executives typically relate to how their EHR has negatively impacted their organization. After reassuring them that they are not alone in the quest for a worry-free system, I probe deeper to understand the concern and provide feedback based on experience and the marketplace. Terms such as interoperability, manual process, or regulatory requirements combined with vendor support, discontinued versions, or return-on-investment (ROI) are amid their near profanity-laced responses.

While these are all valid reasons, often shared in the shrinking EHR Marketplace, it is important to categorize the need to change systems into long-term and short-term priorities. Let’s face it: EHRs are very expensive and can take years, entire teams, and hundreds of staff-hours to implement and support. Any decision to invest in such a change should be a thoughtful one. Short-term (two years or less) matters, such as discontinued versions, sunsetting of a vendor product or service, and/or a vendor’s inability to meet federally mandated programs are concerns that should cause leaders’ to establish a project charter to select a new EHR. The project charter should include a vendor vetting process inclusive of the organization’s acceptance criteria, any budgetary needs, and, of course, physician input. Longer-term strategic drivers, such as mergers or acquisitions where competing EHR platforms are assessed for their interoperability (or lack thereof), allow for a more thorough deliberation to make the best decision.

Staffing models and process consolidation should never occur without the proof that automation exists in the last system standing if one should be replaced. Other insistent but less time-sensitive drivers are expressed when the use of a vendor’s system causes resource-intensive processes that do not help the organization meet its strategic goals or make them competitive in their community or marketplace. In these cases, optimizing the EHR may pay dividends and prove that an ROI is still attainable. Frequently the processes that were established at the time of Go-Live caused manual approaches or adoption of bad habits due to internal resistance or subconscious unwillingness to abandon the old ways of doing things. Optimizing an existing system or modifying processes to achieve automation can also cause drastic change, although at less cost than replacing an EHR. No matter what strategic decision leads you to ponder the question about the time to switch EHRs, organizations achieve successful outcomes when they take steps to experience their EHR environment through the eyes of every functional department, physician, and patient who interacts with their health system or practice while attaining an ROI for the organization.

Coker Group has worked alongside many practices, groups, and healthcare systems to make the best decision to select, implement, and change EHRs in various environments. Please let us know if we can help you achieve success in your EHR strategic goals.

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