I have assisted with Electronic Medical Records (EMR) roll-out into a number of small to medium sized healthcare clinics. Careful planning and management of these projects is important for successful EMR implementation and seems to become even more critical as the number of employees in a practice rises. I came face-to-face with this recently as I assisted with the implementation of an IT infrastructure and a software package into a 7 physician practice with 33 employees. Planning, management, and communication at all levels of an organization is a lot simpler when you are dealing with a handful of employees – you can actually get them all in the same room for at least a short period of time. But, increasing this number to a clinic the size of 33 employees is quite another thing to plan for and manage. Communication has to be more formally planned out so that it reaches all levels of the practice. Furthermore, the skill sets and culture of the entire organization needs to be carefully analyzed (i.e. you can’t assume that everyone knows basic computer skills or that they even want to know).
Peter Polack, in his recent post on Medical Practice Trends, offers that applying the principle of “change management” will make EMR implementation much more successful. He includes ten principles that should be considered for anyone that will be managing the implementation of a new EMR system. These principles include such things as “addressing the human side”, “involving every layer”, “creating ownership” and “communicating the message”. Glancing through these principles one might think that they are simple common sense considerations. They are. However, omiting any or not creating a plan to effectively use these principles could be the difference between success and failure.
Many “failures” of EMR systems have as much to do with poor planning and implementation as with deficiencies in the software itself. This is especially true when it comes to the changes that occur on the human side. Planning how a new EMR system will integrate within a specific practice before actually installing the software will be time well spent and, ultimately, will benefit the bottom line.