Implementation Best Practices for EHRs

Author Archives: Lauren Brawley

About Lauren Brawley

Lauren Brawley is a Marketing Specialist at Patagonia Health, a cloud-based EHR designed specifically for behavioral and public healthcare. Lauren integrates her strong communications skills with industry research to keep partners up to date on important Behavioral and Public Health resources and news.

Implementation Best Practices for EHRs

ehr implementation best practices

While implementation occurs after selecting an EHR, it is important to know what to expect and EHR implementation best practices. Implementing new software is a large project. Whether you’re transitioning from paper to an EHR system or switching EHR systems altogether, the change is significant. Follow these best practices to ease the transition.

Create a Plan

  • When you’re about to take a long trip, you want to know what lies ahead. The same should apply for implementing an EHR solution. That’s why roadmaps are critical for implementation. Successful roadmaps include all tasks and processes that need to be completed by agency staff. 
  • Here are some initial questions to think through:
    • Why is your organization moving to a new EHR?
    • What is the budget for the project?
    • What year would you like implementation to occur?
    • What features is your organization looking for in an EHR? You may want to prioritize these features from wants to needs.

Set Aside Time

Implementation takes time. Here are key elements to set aside time for:

  • Initial Evaluation: How will your team evaluate the EHR options you are considering? Some organizations develop a scoring system. To create a scoring system, consider  your organization’s needs. Score the software on how they meet each of these needs. Another evaluation tactic is to narrow your options down to 3 systems. Then, your organization can vote on which option they prefer. 
  • Data Migration: Patient demographics are often transferred to the new system. Clean data is especially important in a new system. Talk to the vendors about data migration requirements, the process, and any associated costs.
  • Transition and Implementation: It takes time to transition from old processes to a new system. Make sure your staff is prepared to set aside additional time for this transition and implementation. Your organization may consider appointment changes, shifts in schedule, etc.
  • Training: Block time for staff to be trained. A handful of dedicated staff members who learn the full system can be tasked with teaching the system to others once the formal training is complete. These users are considered superusers and are often management staff.

Create a Core Project Team

Once a plan is established, assign people to complete each task. Implementation best practices for the size of your core project team depends on the size of your organization. This list is the minimum number of people we recommend to make up your team. In some cases, roles may be combined.

  • Project Sponsor – The Project Sponsor is the champion of your EHR project. Often, this role is a health officer, CEO, COO, etc.
  • Project Lead/Manager – Project Lead/Manager is the point of contact for all things EHR.
  • Clinical Expert (SME) – The Clinical Expert should be a clinician, NP, or doctor, who knows the clinic well. 
  • Clerical Lead (SME) – Clerical Lead is often the clerical supervisor. This person will become an expert on the chosen EHR system.
  • Lead Biller – The Lead Biller is often the only biller. This role will be taken by someone who is in charge of billing at your clinic.
  • IT Representation – This role is someone who is an expert in IT within your clinic. Sometimes this role is filled by a contract IT professional.
  • Inventory Specialist – If applicable, an Inventory Specialist will need to be assigned to someone who handles vaccines, medications, and inventory. In many cases, this is a nurse in the clinic.

Communicate Openly

EHR vendors and clinicians alike must have open communication during the implementation process. From the beginning of the EHR partnership, implementation best practices include establishing strong internal and external communication. Transparency between EHR vendor staff and all practice staff increases efficiency and eases the transition.

  • Internal Communication – Establish strong internal communication to keep your employees up to date even through the EHR selection process. Recognize that a new solution is a big change. It is helpful for staff to feel as if they’re involved along the way. Some practices update their staff in newsletters or on a bulletin board. Communication along the way eases the transition when implementation begins. 
  • EHR Vendor Communication – Again, it is important to clearly communicate with your vendor during the selection process and pre-implementation. Make sure they are aware of the scope of the project. Consider if your program will need custom features, such as special reporting or new development for the software. Communicating about your needs throughout the process will ensure a smoother transition to new software.
  • Transition – It’s equally important to let the EHR team know which system you will be transitioning from. Communicate which software you are currently using or the workflow you have established on paper. When a current workflow is clearly communicated, it is easier to match during implementation.
  • Training – Training is another topic to communicate thoroughly with your EHR vendor. How do they train? How long will it take to train your users? What ongoing support is provided once formal training is complete? 

If the software team is coming onsite for your go-live day or training, clearly communicate any expectations. Clearly stated expectations will allow both the EHR and clinicians to see if they are attainable. Make sure you have designated super users that will be the first to learn the software more in-depth and help other staff members even when the EHR training teams are not on-site.

About Patagonia Health

Patagonia Health walks through each step of implementation with our partners. We work with our Behavioral Health and Public Health partners to make training and implementation cost-effective, time-efficient, and successful for the long haul. Patagonia Health works to improve your EHR experience while sticking to implementation best practices. Automate workflows, improve efficiency, and increase cash flow with Patagonia Health. 

Hear what our customers have to say about our implementation: “They were here onsite with us the entire time and basically held our hands through it until we felt comfortable and knew what we were doing” -Teresa

For more tips on successful implementation you can check out our other article here:

Telehealth is Here to Stay

Telehealth is here to stay!

Patagonia Health’s Integrated Telehealth App

With telehealth on the rise, you need a reliable solution to continue providing meaningful care to your clients. That’s why Patagonia Health has developed an integrated telehealth solution. Our telehealth app allows users to easily integrate video appointments into their workflow. The solution is both secure and very easy to use. Interested in learning more? Fill out the form below.

Related Content

Telehealth Best Practices: Enhancing “Webside” Manner

Best Practices for Telehealth Webside Manner

Staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic continues to increase the use of telehealth among healthcare professionals. 75% of individuals in the U.S. who have behavioral health conditions are continuing therapy services during COVID-19. Additionally, virtual care has increased 1.6x since the summer of 2019.  And telehealth is here to stay. Convenience, access beyond clinical hours, and increased continuity of care are just a few of the key benefits in providing telehealth. With such an increase, we pulled together a list of best practices when conducting a telehealth appointment. Just as physicians focus on bedside manner during an in-person interaction, telehealth encounters have a proper “webside” manner.

Why is “Webside” Manner Important?

“Webside” manner is just as important as a regular bedside manner during client appointments. Webside manner is similar to bedside manner. It’s the way clinicians interact with patients during an appointment.

Studies show positive provider-patient relationships matter. When providers receive training in empathy, eye-contact, and other relationship-building strategies, health outcomes often improve. In other words, there are no negative side effects when you focus on maintaining a positive relationship with clients. Building a good rapport is crucial to providing meaningful care. So, how can you enhance your telehealth experience?

Best Practices for a Telehealth Encounter

Before the Appointment

If you are new to telehealth, we recommend practicing before your first client encounter. Even if you are experienced in telehealth, best practices are important reminders before each appointment. Here are a few items to consider:

  • Have the correct equipment – Having a reliable computer or laptop with video functionality will be best for telehealth. Devices often perform best when plugged into a power source. Consider investing in a headset and a USB camera if your current technology isn’t up to par.
  • Test your internet connection – Nothing can interfere with a patient encounter more than having poor communication. During a virtual appointment, internet connection can interfere with communication. Continually test your connectivity to ensure you provide the highest quality care. Placing the router close to your office helps improve wireless connections. If you can’t do that, consider getting a wireless range enhancer to boost your wifi signal. 
  • Physical space – When using video for telehealth, physical space determines whether a client can see you clearly. Proper lighting, for example, affects how well a client can see you. You may also consider a physical space that isn’t prone to unexpected sounds (from kids, pets, etc.). Additionally, make sure you are comfortable in the space before the appointment begins. Being intentional about your physical space decreases possible distractions.
  • Practice – Grab a colleague to practice with. Set the stage just as you will during your appointments. Ask for feedback on how your space looks, whether the connection seems to be working properly, etc. For instance, a colleague may be able to comment on what the patient experience is like when logging into the telehealth appointment. Practice provides further confidence in using telehealth, which may be a new concept to you or your client.  
  • Have a back-up plan – It is no secret that technology can provide unexpected roadblocks. Whether it be a client’s internet giving out or a device losing power, know your backup plan. A backup plan may look like calling your patient instead of using video. Luckily telehealth compliance and reimbursement are flexible when issues do occur (some rules have become more relaxed during COVID-19). Your agency may provide you with a specific backup plan when things do not go as expected. Know the recommended procedure so you are prepared when challenges arise. 

During the Appointment

It’s time for a telehealth appointment! After proper preparation, remember virtual communication best practices. Consider these tips:

  • Focus on the camera to mimic eye contact.
  • Be aware of body language.
  • Stay seated when possible.
  • Avoid distractions. This tip may seem obvious, but taping or fidgeting is often more distracting on video than in person.
  • Be clear. Clarity on a virtual platform is critically important. For instance, ask clients if they can hear you okay. Ask clients if they need any clarification or have questions during each encounter. Being clear may seem like a simple communication practice, but double-checking your clients’ understanding is better than assuming they heard everything.

Your Reliable Solution

With telehealth on the rise, you need a reliable solution to continue providing meaningful care to your clients. That’s why Patagonia Health has developed an integrated telehealth solution. Our telehealth app allows users to easily integrate video appointments into their workflow. The solution is both secure and very easy to use. Interested in learning more? Contact us today. 


Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. But mental health is more than a month. In order to stop the stigma, communication must continue around the importance of mental health all year. Specifically, during the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has become a national conversation. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in late April over half of U.S. adults (56%) COVID-19 stress or worry has had a negative impact on their mental health. A recent PsychU Webinar noted the loneliness epidemic was already prevalent in our culture. COVID-19 is helping the world recognize this epidemic and increase resources available online to uplift people. Additionally, behavioral health professionals anticipate a reduced mental health stigma at the end of this pandemic. Mental health awareness is increasingly important in our world.

Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May since 1949. It’s outreach has touched millions of people through media, local events, and screenings. Mental Health America releases a toolkit every March to support outreach activities during Mental Health Awareness Month. But why not use these tools to educate the public about mental illness all year long? Why not talk about the fact that 18.1% of Americans suffer from depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder? Why not continue talking about suicide to help reduce the stigma associated with it?

Mental Health Awareness Tools

To help you spread the word about mental health awareness, we have compiled several tools and resources for you.

Resources Specific to Mental Health Awareness During COVID-19:

How to #BeTheDifference For People With Mental Health Concerns During COVID-19 (Mental Health First Aid)

Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine and Isolation (SAMHSA)

Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19 (CDC)

Finding Local Mental Health Resources During the COVID-19 Crisis (American Psychological Association)

Mental Health Resources

Mental Health America’s 2020 Mental Health Awareness Toolkit

Facts to Share to Raise Mental Health Awareness

Infographics and More Social Media Messaging

Suicide Prevention Facts and Resources

Warning Signs and Risk of Suicide

Tips for Mental Wellness

Mental health is not prejudiced. It affects the world as a whole regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or social background. Psychology Today created a list of ways to encourage people to live in a manner promoting mental wellness. Here are some of their healthy mind tips you can share:

  • Get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
  • Avoid unhealthy foods, such as sugars, greasy foods, salts, processed foods, and saturated fats.
  • Consume more whole grains, greens, unprocessed foods, lean meats, and unsaturated fats.
  • Drink at least 3 liters of water per day.
  • Engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Stay away from toxic thoughts, toxic people, and toxic conversations.
  • Practice mindfulness or meditation on a daily basis.
  • Learn how to manage your stress.
  • Stay present in your daily relationships.
  • Avoid “screen time” and engage in more “in-person time”.
  • Take time for yourself every day.

Spread the Word about Mental Health

Whether your outreach takes place on social media, your blog, your local paper or in your clinic, generating awareness about mental illness should be an ongoing effort. Help others recognize 20% of us will experience a severe mental health disorder at some point in our lifetime. That is one out of every five of us. You can help by keeping the conversation going. 

At Patagonia Health we are raising our voices to fight the stigma against mental illness. Help us by speaking up or sharing this post.

If you liked this blog, you might also like: 

Managing Anxiety Amid COVID-19

Inside Behavioral Health: 8 Signs of Mental Illness

Inside Behavioral Health: Suicide Awareness and Prevention

Inside Behavioral Health: The Science of Substance Use Disorder

Contact Tracing and Next Steps

Contact Tracing During COVID-19

States move toward reopening, public health decisions continue to be in the spotlight.

As curves plateau and state economies continue to struggle, people around the country are asking: when will we get back to normal? Public health and government officials, however, focus on how we return to normal. As of May 1, more than half of US states began reopening businesses and easing previously strict orders and mandates. Although, what we remember as normal before this pandemic will not be how states reopen right away. 

In order to contain this public health crisis, experts consider how to safely move toward reopening. Testing, tracing, and self-isolating will be key in taking the next steps. Communities will rely on four building blocks to combat COVID-19: contact tracing, testing, and eventual COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. These building blocks work together for an effective plan to return to society. Public health professionals will focus on where the virus is in communities and how to continue to reduce the spread. 

What is Contact Tracing?

Contact tracing is a public health strategy designed to contain the spread of an infectious disease. The idea works by tracing and contacting each person who may have been in contact with an individual who tests positive for an infectious disease. By informing individuals when they may have been in contact with a positive case, we can monitor and advise others appropriately (e.g self isolate if they also show symptoms). The concept is fundamental to public health and even more important during the current pandemic. In the U.S., we are fortunate to have strong local health departments. The staff at health departments work as quiet soldiers day in and day out to keep our communities safe. When our everyday lives aren’t at risk of infectious disease, we don’t even realize the work being done by local health departments.

The Importance of Tracing Positive COVID-19 Cases 

Johns Hopkins School of Public Health recently released a report on COVID-19 contact tracing in the United States. The report estimated each positive COVID-19 person can infect 2 to 3 other people, on average. This leads to an alarming statistic: if one person spreads the virus to three others, the first positive case can turn into more than 59,000 cases in 10 rounds of infections.

How Does Contact Tracing Work?

In addition to providing immunizations to the public, county health departments ensure communicable diseases such as STD, HIV, and tuberculosis (TB) do not spread in communities. They do this by helping infected individuals and tracing all contacts. For example, when someone tests positive for TB, health department staff are responsible for tracking and contacting all people who that person has been in contact with. The staff’s focus is to make sure each individual is safe and not positive for TB. If connected people show symptoms of the disease, appropriate actions will be advised, such as self-isolation. Electronic Health Records designed specifically for public health have contact tracing functionality for TB built into their software. During the normal course of life, an individual can come in contact with hundreds of people. The EHR software enables staff to efficiently contact and track positive cases, decreasing the chance of widespread infection. 

Contact tracing can quickly isolate people who are or may be infected to stop the spread while allowing healthy people to engage in society. COVID-19 tracing efforts by public health departments will be critical as we reintegrate back into society. Additionally, if there is a second wave of COVID-19, preparing contact tracing measures now enables more effective action in the future.

How States are Already Working Towards Reopening

States, such as Maryland, have released extensive reopening plans to the public. Governor Larry Hogan recently stated that when moving toward reopening, his administration is working to “move rapidly, but not recklessly.” Maryland’s building blocks include testing and having a plan for enough personal protective equipment. They have additionally worked hard to prioritize their contact tracing workforce. COVID-19 Link, a new platform to be used for robust contact tracing operations, will help collect information about people who test positive for COVID-19 and anyone they have come in contact with. Maryland has expanded their workforces to 1,000 contact tracers who will be trained on this platform using data from the region’s health information exchange (CRISP). Public Health EHRs connect to Health Information Exchanges, including CRISP, to provide real-time data, which is crucial during an epidemic. 

Public Health Workers, We’re Here for You.

We know county local health department staff are on the frontlines of finding answers about COVID-19 and doing hard work of contact tracing. As an Electronic Health Record provider focused on public health, we understand the importance of your work. Thank you, healthcare heroes! If there is any way that we can be a resource to you during this time, please reach out to us today