Overcoming Challenges to EHR Implementation in Behavioral Health

Why Is EHR Implementation so Daunting?

The electronic health record (EHR) system is at the core of most behavioral health organizations, and it touches almost every aspect of your practice. It contains provider notes, protected health information (PHI), organizational metrics, state reporting documentation, billing information, along with other vital data sets. Because so many processes, data streams, and business elements rely upon your EHR, any change to this infrastructure will impact your staff, clients, and billing.

This inherent complexity of challenges to EHR implementation requires a professional, thoughtful, and experienced implementation process. A bad EHR implementation results in frustrated staff, disrupted claims, revenue leakage, and general inefficiencies. Even worse, this process can lead to mishandled patient data, broken integrations, and massive costs associated with fixing the system.

It’s natural to focus on the negative aspects of a change in EHR, but keep in mind there’s a reason your organization is transitioning. Consider the improved efficiency, actionable data, reduction in documentation errors, improved staff retention, and transformational business insights.

In this article, we go over several challenges you will face while searching for your new EHR and provide tips for a successful implementation.

The Difficulty of Choosing an EHR

Because the EHR is at the heart of your business, deciding on a new system can be difficult. Every EHR provider makes bold statements about how revolutionary their technology will be for your practice, often with poor follow-through and mixed results. It’s essential that you research them and verify these claims. Start your search process by assembling a procurement team. This group will provide diverse perspectives and will distribute the pressure of choosing a vendor. This technology switch will affect every part of your organization, so make sure they are all represented in the procurement team. Divide research amongst this group and ask all your staff their opinions and concerns. From this survey, decide on what the must-haves and nice-to-haves are for your next EHR.

We’ve created an agency-agnostic buyers guide to assist you during this procurement process. This guide asks key questions that will lead you through industry best practices when it comes to navigating the EHR market.

Month-Long EHR Implementation Processes

After you decide on a new EHR, you will embark on integrating it within your practice. The implementation process takes several months, and some EHR companies take a year or more to get fully set up. The lengthy on-boarding gives the implementation team an opportunity to learn how your organization functions and what unique requirements you might have. This information helps them better configure the system’s workflows, safely handle patient data, create specific dashboards, and integrate various tools and features into the system.

To best manage this process, assign an internal project leader for the implementation. It will be their job to keep up to date with all set-up items and act as the main point of contact for your EHR provider, minimizing delays in communication. Working with the implementation team, the project lead will help define timelines, document action items, and assign tasks as needed.

Clear project timelines will reduce disruptions for both your team and theirs. Discuss with your EHR provider what to do if roadblocks occur and who needs to be notified of certain issues. The project lead should revisit the original timeline to make amendments, keeping it as up to date as possible.

Customized Workflows for Your Behavioral Health Team

Many EHR companies have preset workflows without the option to customize them to your specific needs. It is crucial that you understand the configurability of your new EHR before implementation. Your provider should spend the first part of the implementation with a discovery process. This allows them to learn how your staff interacts with the EHR, what their workflows look like, and what causes frustrations.

This discovery process allows the implementation team to create customized workflows that match your organization’s specific needs. Even if you offer the same services as another clinic, your workflows are unique to your practice and staff.

Have your project lead speak with relevant staff to discuss their needs. The project lead should compile a list of requirements and communicate this to the implementation team. Not only does this get your staff involved with the new system design, but it also helps the implementation team create a truly impactful technological solution. These practice-specific workflows will help reduce provider burn out, data entry errors, and revenue leakage.

Overcoming Staff Resistance to a New EHR System

Your staff have likely aired their frustrations with your current EHR, but they might push back on changing systems. Often this is caused by fear of a steep learning curve, process changes, and time spent getting familiar with the new technology. Listen to their concerns and validate their hesitations while you talk to them about the benefits of the new system. Make sure to bring the conversation back to what the new system will fix, how it will benefit their daily work, and most importantly, how it will better address the needs of your clients.

If one of your providers has particularly strong feelings about the new EHR, consider making them a part of the discovery process so they can help the EHR provider address these concerns. At the end of the day, your providers want to give your clients the best possible care, and your new EHR is intended to make that easier for them.

Effective EHR Training Boosts Staff Adoption and Minimizes Disruptions

Poor training can result in frustrated staff, increased clerical errors, and potentially a loss in revenue. With the right on-boarding, you’ll see improved adoption throughout the organization and a significant decrease in disruptions after the go-live date.

Your EHR provider will have a training plan and on-boarding strategy that should set your team up for success. Often, this involves providing one or two people within your organization with significant hands-on training covering the entire EHR system. These ‘champions’ or ‘superusers.’ s will train the rest of your staff in their specific role.

This method avoids lengthy training for the entirety of your staff, which is often unproductive and ineffective. Your ‘superusers’ will divide up the training and focus on the information that is relevant to specific roles and teams. This keeps the sessions short and impactful with minimal disruptions to daily work.

Your EHR provider should also provide recorded training videos and presentations that can be distributed to staff. This will supplement the training provided by the EHR ‘champions’, allow your staff to get a refresher when needed, and helps the onboarding process for new staff. H2: Ensure Secure Data Migration During EHR Implementation

The biggest lift during implementation is migrating your current data into the new system. While there may not be much for you to do on your end, it’s important you fully understand the data transfer process. Before you provide access to this information, ensure the EHR provider is fully HIPAA compliant and has all the necessary certifications. Have your internal IT and legal team review the certifications to verify the compliance.

This data provides valuable insights into your business and with the right tools, you can identify revenue leakage, claims denial hurdles, and issues impacting provider productivity. Speak with your EHR provider about their business intelligence tools and how to integrate them with your current data.

Building a Successful Partnership with Your EHR Vendor

To build a partnership with your technology vendor that drives long-term benefits for both parties, you need to involve them in the success of your practice. After implementation, you should still have a single point of contact that you communicate with regularly. They should be the first line of support if your staff encounters system issues, needs to modify workflows, or wants to add additional functionality. Discuss with your vendor how communication should occur after going live. Make sure you understand the support ticket process and how to escalate larger issues. This communication is a key factor in maximizing your return on investment. This partnership can also lead to the vendor making updates to the system. Switching EHRs is a time consuming and complex process. But with the right technology partner and a clear strategy, you will be able to quickly realize value and deliver efficient and effective care.

Contact an EHR Software Expert

At Qualifacts, we are committed to serving behavioral health, rehabilitative (PT/OT/SLP), and human services organizations by providing top-rated EHR solutions and services. Our team consists of seasoned professionals with hands-on clinical and administrative experience in these vital service areas. We understand the unique challenges you face and are here to assist you in selecting the most suitable solutions for your organization’s needs. Let’s kickstart the conversation that can transform your services. Complete this brief form to get started.