Challenges in Implementing New EHR Software in Hospitals

With the increased need for better efficiency in hospitals, more and more providers are now opting for Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) in place of paper-based records. While implementing these digital systems is now a state requirement and provides several performance and revenue benefits for the organization itself, many hospitals are still reluctant to adopt these digital systems.

This is primarily because the implementation system is time-consuming and costly, and even leads to temporarily lowered organizational performance because of the unavoidable need to train the medical staff to use the new system. There are several other hurdles in the implementation process that are making many resist EMRs and EHRs – even compromising on the substantial interoperability benefits that they provide.

Top Challenges That Hinder EHR Adoption

Cost of Implementation

Implementing an EMR is nowhere near the same for all hospitals since resources can vary greatly. This is where cost comes into play; hospitals with smaller investment budgets can often not afford to spend on a system they may see as experimental. This is not only because the system itself is costly, but also because of the implementation and the data transition requires expenditure. Since the hospital staff will have a new task – that is, implementing an entirely new system – the patient volume may also be lowered, which means lower profits and potential losses.

Technical Requirements

Every step of implementing an EHR requires technology. This means hospitals have to take care of additional technological requirements, as an uninterrupted internet connection. If this is not done, EHRs cannot store or share data. This becomes a problem for hospitals situated in rural areas that do not have access to strong internet networks.

Another unavoidable technical requirement is data migration, which is quite tedious manual work. Providers and staff have to move all existing paper-based data into the digital system and have to be careful about potential errors and ensure secure data handling. The process is often made easier with adept EMRs like Epic, which provides 24/7 technical support and improvements.

Clinical Culture

Implementing an EMR is not just a technological challenge. It can also be troubling for the hospital staff, since an entirely new system challenges the current system – which may have been in place for decades – and the way that things are done. The change itself is not technical but a cultural one, and it can be tough to ensure smooth and uniform implementation and adoption across a large hospital.

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Training and Leadership

With a new system, hospital managers are inevitably required to train their employees to understand and manage the new workflow. This means spending on training resources. This is essential because the benefits of a digital system won’t come about unless the workflow is understood and tested. Fortunately, the process is made easier by EMR providers like Epic; the best companies provide certification courses, peer-to-peer training, and other resources to help hospital staff become confident owners of the digital system. It is also important to take into account that not everyone will be on board; hospital staff and even some patients may object to the new system. The process naturally tests leadership ability, since successful implementation and learning needs unified team motivation and unwavering engagement.

Workflow Disruption

EMR Implementation is a large-scale process than can take several weeks or even months to become fully functional. This naturally means that the implementation team will be overburdened and there may be a temporary lack of efficiency in providing care. Patient volume may be lowered, which automatically leads to lower revenue. While this can be avoided, providers are usually afraid of the potential dip the hospital will face before the improvement that a digitized record-keeping system brings.

Clinician Burnout

It is highly likely for the EMR implementation team to suffer from change fatigue. What makes this worse is that the benefits that the staff expects rarely ever come immediately. Interoperability, which is often the most exciting benefit of EMRs, does not come easy. The real work on it often is impossible to begin until the implementation is entirely done. This, coupled with working under pressure, can easily cause low motivation and lead to clinician burnout.

Security Threats

Technological systems have their benefits, but they also come with their share of threats. With digital data, breaches and cyber theft securities often concern providers. While there are effective ways to secure medical data, the problem is partly habitual and cultural; hospital staff generally feel secure when they know their data is physically protected in a place with classified access. They may feel more vulnerable when the data is online, which causes reluctance in adopting EHRs.

Interesting Read: Fixing EHRs is Imperative Now

Solutions to EMR Implementation Challenges

EMR implementation challenges are indeed real, but they are not unsolvable. With the right understanding, determination, and work, hospitals can successfully transition to digital systems.

Treat EHR implementation as a large-scale operation

It is important to be prepared for the process. Remember that it requires a full-fledged plan, assigned roles, backup plans, and top-notch leadership.

Don’t miss learning and research opportunities

Providers should use their medical connections to do their research before going ahead with EMR implementation. A great idea is to visit those who have gone through the process, talk to them about their challenges, evaluate the results, and make decisions for your own hospital accordingly.

Take care of the clinical staff

Since the team can easily fall victim to fatigue and low motivation, it is important for leaders to take care of them. Make investments in the wellness of your employees, set small milestones in the process and celebrate them, and reward the hardworking members for their efforts.

Keep patient care the top-most priority

It is important to remember that EMR implementation is eventually going to provide convenience to patients as well as streamline care. Since that is the primary goal of any medical facility, there should ideally be no option other than successfully getting through the process.

Choose the right EHR

With strong and diverse competition, there are several great EHRs available. Providers must carry out adequate research, analyze their needs, evaluate available options, and then choose the right EHR to make sure the hospital needs are effectively served.

Work together with the implementation team

Remember that you and the EHR implementation team are on the same side and have the same goals. Top EMR providers like Epic work side by side with hospitals to implement the system safely, on time, within budget, and with ideal usability.

While there are inevitable challenges that come with implementing EHR in a hospital, it is imperative for clinicians to remain positive and strive to build acceptance for a better chance. There is no denying that digital systems are better in the long-run and will help medical facilities provide better patient care, attain large patient volumes, and enjoy maximized profitability.