3 Ways Change Management Can Ease EHR Implementation

Electronic health record systems in the healthcare sector have risen in popularity over the last decade, especially considering the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 mandated EHR migration and the Healthcare Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, in part, subsidizes EHR implementation through Medicare and Medicaid "meaningful use" programs.

However, mandates and reimbursements are not what keep this technology in the minds of the nation's most innovative health professionals - intelligently built and maintained EHR systems improve patient care, be it through smarter record management between health providers, fewer administrative errors or more time in front of a doctor instead of time spent in the waiting room.

That said, gone are the days where simply having the most basic EHR system qualified a hospital or clinic as "forward-thinking." As EHR technology gains traction across the healthcare sector, providers will need to demonstrate adept and efficient use over this new resource, if not for the sake of their patients than because of 1 percent penalty per year of noncompliance inflicted on their incentive payments should they fail to prove the worth of their processes.

Good news: Healthcare facilities without EHR systems in place or those struggling to get implementation of a certified system off the ground can still catch up, as well as expect both the clinical and financial benefits of doing so, provided they include IT service management solutions like change management in their initiatives.

1. Integrate ITSM change management into initial planning discussion
Where do you and your organization hope EHR implementation will take you? What do you hope to achieve that you never could through paper records?

Before shopping for the right EHR system, healthcare providers ought to itemize exactly what improvements to internal processes they hope to achieve. This first step might seem insurmountable in its scope, and adding a sidebar about change management may not appear like it would save anyone time. The advantages of establishing a respect for change management practices during EHR implementation planning stages will pay off eventually.

How so? Changes to EHR systems must always respect the sensitivity of the information therein. It's up to EHR implementers to construct and sustain leak-free configurations, practically impossible without advanced change management for healthcare. Automated change management features like asset dependency mapping through a CMDB and regression testing reduce human error while heightening security and increasing ITSM agility.

2. Use change management as powerful implementation tool
As healthcare providers undergo EHR implementation, change management can be of significant value to mitigate the growing pains of a burgeoning information system.

After all, it's not enough to say your healthcare facility wants a patient self-service portal to reduce administrative work for staff. Implementers also require a backup plan should these new features fail to live up to their expectations in a technical capacity. Change management, therefore, acts as uptime insurance on EHR implementation and all subsequent configuration updates, preserving the integrity of the system and fortifying benefits to users.

But the support change management offers in the first stages of implementation, as well as life post-implementation, extend beyond the technical and into the organizational. For instance, training individuals on standard EHR use necessitates a user-friendly interface and optimized sessions for speedy, cost-effective education. The same rules apply to change management software - the right package will expedite training so the positive impact of implementation can be felt immediately. Not only does change management encourage users to develop a change advisory board to oversee changes, but IT will be better able to respond to tickets as service desk requests pour in during the earliest parts of EHR implementation. Don't let an unavoidable EHR system learning curve throw IT technicians off-kilter when they're needed the most.

3. Attain 'meaningful use' as quickly as possible
For EHR-implementing healthcare providers to demonstrate "meaningful use" as defined through ARRA and HITECH, they need their records systems operating at peak efficiency and availability. How can the technology work its magic if it isn't up and running properly?

To that end, reaching "meaningful use" status is simply a matter of prolonging ITSM uptime and maintaining agility. Yet, as more and more healthcare facilities expand EHR, technicians will need flexible, scalable support architecture underpinning their EHR networks to ensure consummate uptime across all interconnected assets. Apart from CMDB discussed earlier, advanced change management software for the healthcare sector also has the power to track changes automatically and organize data actionably for technicians. This can be of benefit should a change trigger a downtime event, or as proof of meaningful use to regulators. In addition, IT can customize release options according to CAB recommendations to push changes meeting a certain criteria without manual case-by-case approval.

EHR implementation need not be arduous - so long as healthcare IT affords attention to cutting-edge ITSM change management principles throughout the process, EHR implementation can happen quickly and without complication.

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