Posted By Denton Dickerson On August 7, 2023

Managing Your EHR Implementation Timeline

Managing Your EHR Implementation Timeline

One of the most important challenges you will face when switching to a new EHR is managing your EHR implementation timeline. Are you considering implementing an EHR system in your healthcare organization? It’s a big decision and one that can have a significant impact on your operations, staff, and patients. The good news is, analyzing the process step-by-step is the best way to ensure that EHR implementation takes place on your preferred timeline. This blog highlights the main steps – from the vendor selection process to go-live.

What is EHR implementation? 

EHR implementation is the process of integrating EHR software and components into a healthcare organization. It is a multi-layered process that often requires multiple departments and affects everyone from doctors and staff to patients and clients. 

How long does EHR implementation take? 

Time constraint is the most common obstacle that public health and behavioral health clinics face when selecting an EHR. Much of that has to do with managing expectations. On average, transitions to a new EHR will take approximately 6-12 months. Where your organization falls within that timeframe will depend on your preparation and planning. When your clinic understands every step of the EHR implementation process, it is much easier to set deadlines and manage time.

Questions to consider…

Your answers to these questions play a significant role in estimating the duration of your EHR implementation timeline. When it is time to chart your implementation roadmap, the EHR experts involved in the process can provide solid estimates regarding the amount of time needed to complete the implementation, which can reduce some of the uncertainty surrounding timing.

The EHR Implementation Timeline 

The EHR implementation process generally follows the following steps: 

1. Designate a teammate as your implementation lead.

Establish a lead point of contact on your EHR selection team. This person will be responsible for managing the EHR transition process. Choose someone who is highly organized with strong communication skills and a deep understanding of your clinic’s workflow. Planning is one of the most crucial factors of this project. Assign a key, tech-savvy project manager to lead the program. This person will be instrumental to keep the program on schedule, keep the staff up to date, and ultimately know the right system when the time comes.

2. Determine your EHR requirements.

Spend time with your team to make a detailed list of what EHR features and functionality are mission-critical to your practice. For example, if you’re a public health clinic that needs to sort reports by funding for mass vaccinations, make sure your chosen EHR has that capability before proceeding with them.  Similarly, if you run a behavioral health clinic and need the ability to send electronic prescriptions for controlled substances, choose an EHR with that functionality. 

3. Submit your RFIs and/or RFPs 

Once you and your team have decided on your EHR system requirements, it’s time to research potential vendors and then submit Requests for Information (RFI) and/or Request for Proposals (RFP) to prospective vendors (if your organization, country, or state require you to go through this process). You can also check to see if other health organizations in your county or state have gone through similar processes so you can piggyback off the RFI or RFP they wrote. This could save you a lot of time. If you have to write your own, make sure you are asking the right questions in your EHR RFP.

4. Evaluate RFI and/or RFP responses.

After your selection team receives the RFIs and RFPs, evaluate these responses based on how well they adhere to the requirements list. Communicate with your potential vendors to make adjustments as necessary. 

5. Attend demos. 

Undoubtedly, one of the most crucial aspects of the EHR implementation timeline is attending demos with the top vendors you are considering. Allow as many staff members as possible to attend these demos to ensure buy-in of the final selection.

Since there are multiple users with different roles who all need to use the system, make sure they all have a say in the selection process. This way they can evaluate the options to and count on the new EHR to be beneficial to their workflow. Set up specific scenarios and ask each vendor the same questions. Finally, use a decision matrix to rank your top selection.

Always see a live demonstration before choosing an EHR. Ask the vendor for references and check them out. Remember that the cheapest system might not serve all of your needs and could ultimately cost more if you have to switch again in a year or so. Consider what is included in each quote you receive to ensure that there are no hidden costs.

6. Rank your EHR vendor options. 

Narrow your potential vendor list down to a shortlist of 3 or 4 finalists. Schedule a demo presentation with each of these vendors, to get a hands-on look at the software. Check reviews, research competitors, and do your due diligence to ensure that you are considering trustworthy EHR vendors

7. Choose your vendor. 

After you’ve attended a few demos and done your research on each EHR option, it’s time to make a decision on which vendor you will implement at your practice. At this stage it is important not to lose contact with your vendor after making your decision. You will need to review and sign your contract on time to ensure you are put in the queue for your organization’s EHR implementation. If you need to go-live by a specific date, make timely responses to your vendor so they can make it happen for you. 

8. Prepare to go-live. 

With the help of the vendor, the selection team and representatives from the vendor will plan out how the EHR software will be deployed. This process includes system prep, employee training and data migration. Some EHR vendors offer their own remote and on-site training programs while others may prefer a more hands-off approach. Both approaches are fine but should include the same things. Even if you are busy, to make sure your training is successful, be sure to… 

Data migration is a crucial part of the go-live preparation process. To have a smooth data migration to your new EHR, the process should include…

  • Converting from paper records to electronic records, if necessary
  • Legacy data verification and cleansing
  • Conversion development and testing
  • Mapping legacy data to new database fields
  • Data transfer to the new system
  • Validation and sign-off

9. Go-live.

By now, you’ve spent plenty of time preparing for your new EHR. Your staff is trained. Your legacy data has migrated over and you’re ready to start using your brand-new EHR. However, it’s still a good idea to set a few post-implementation goals, to make sure your new EHR is working for you. Keep an eye on network reliability and speed. System testing processes should also be in place. It helps to make sure you’ve chosen a vendor that prioritizes post live support with training, webinars and user groups.  

Implementing an EHR can be a difficult process, but it’s important to plan and execute it correctly. The process involves selecting a team, gathering requirements, evaluating vendors, selecting a vendor, and planning and preparing for go-live. It’s important to define a budget, schedule, and training program, as well as clearly define go-live activities and evaluation strategies. If you want to implement a new solution on your timeline, you’ll need to follow all of these steps and be sure to stay engaged with your vendor, communicate your timeline clearly with your prospective vendors, and sign your contracts with your vendor of choice in a timely fashion so that your go-live date is met.

Updated August 2023

Original author credit: Denton Dickerson, August 6, 2023

About Patagonia Health, Inc.

Patagonia Health’s integrated EHR, Practice Management, and Billing solutions are designed to improve departmental workflows using apps and cloud-based technology. Our company was founded with a focus on providing technology solutions with highly referenceable customer service. We collaborate with public and behavioral health organizations to develop advanced features,  empowering them to improve the well-being of their communities. Our federally-certified software enables our customers to achieve their desired health outcomes. We serve those who serve others. If you’d like more information about our solutions, contact us today.

About Denton Dickerson

Denton is a marketing associate at Patagonia Health, an Electronic Health Records (EHR) software company serving Public and Behavioral Health departments across the United States. He is responsible for creating content, managing social media, and supporting marketing strategies, all driven by his passion for health and wellness.