In It for the Long Haul: Switch to an EMR System You Love

By: on July 16, 2019

According to HIT’s latest data, more than 85% of office-based medical practices are using an electronic health records (EHR) system.

When you consider the reasons that typically prompt practices to switch EHRs—growing teams, new government reporting requirements, new features, etc.—it becomes obvious that nearly every independent practice is going to face the process of transitioning from one EMR to another eventually.

If you’re at that point already, we’re here to help.

We interviewed Noah England, a practice administrator who has led multiple medical practices through the process of switching EMR systems, to give us some tips and guidance based on his experiences.

Noah England

Practice administrator for The Eye & Laser Center

England has over 20 years of experience in medical practices and has led the process of researching, selecting, and transitioning to new EHRs several times.

Transitioning from one EMR to another looks different for everyone

The first and most important thing to know when entering this process is that no two practices are identical, which means transitioning from one EMR to another looks different for everyone.

There are, however, a few steps to the process that will always need to happen no matter what. Steps like:

  • Evaluating current software shortcomings
  • Researching other software vendors
  • Demoing products

When asked about how practices can navigate all the variables of this process is for individual practices, England emphasized the importance of self-assessment.

“Every organization has needs and wants as well as limitations, so the process itself is different as well.

The limitations area is a broad subject … You must ask, what is my current system not doing that the practice must have, such as MIPS or governmental compliance? What is my current system lacking in terms of what the practice would like? What does the current solution have that I must have in a future system? What does the current system do that I can live without?

These are just a handful of the questions you should ask. Then you must research systems to find out the best fit. Remember, an EHR system is a marriage—not a date.”

Research was a common theme in our conversation, and England’s marriage analogy is a perfect explanation of why. Selecting and switching to a new EHR system is not a small or quick task, so it’s not something you’re going to want to turn around and do all over again anytime soon.

Assemble a team to handle the transition

So now that we’ve established the stakes for getting this right, here’s how you can allocate resources and time to make the best decision: By assembling a team.

I’ll let England’s recommendation speak for itself here.

“Absolutely and without a doubt a team is needed for the research and evaluation process.

In my current practice, my steering committee included:

  • The clinical director
  • The director of business operations
  • The optical manager
  • Myself

We would also have some of our informal clinical leaders, as well as members of the administrative side, sit in on various demos to voice their opinions.

This became valuable moving forward as it helped to create champions for the new system and build staff buy-in.”

And I wholeheartedly agree. If more than one person at your practice is going to be using the new EHR software, more than one person should weigh in on the decision-making process. The size of your research team will likely depend on the size of your practice, but getting key players involved from the jump is an excellent strategy.

England’s point about staff buy-in is also critical. There are a lot of mixed feelings about EHRs in the medical community, and it’s possible some members of your staff won’t be happy about the transition. Making sure they have a say in this process is a great way to get them on board.

Work with your EHR provider to set up team trainings

Naturally, your level of confidence and experience will dictate how much hand-holding you’ll want from your EHR provider, but finding a vendor with great customer support options is always smart.

Even England, who has gone through the process many times before, knows the value of a good working relationship between users and software providers.

“I have twenty years of experience with leading EHR transitions, so I did not have to rely on [customer support] as much as others may, but they were always there. It’s crucial not to minimize the importance of prepping and acquiring as much training as possible.”

Many vendors send representatives to run training sessions and answer questions for your whole team as a way to help you through the transition process. Likewise, you’ll probably be paired with an account manager or sales rep who will be able to field your questions and help you find resources as-needed.

It’s great to have resources on hand for any small questions that come up day-to-day, but being able to reach out for answers when big issues arise will give you peace of mind—and that’s worth a lot.

Lean on these resources for EHR research and selection

This seems like a no-brainer, I know, but finding the right system for your practice is a critical step to a successful EHR transition. It’s something England underlined as well.

“Research, research, research!

Ask questions and verify the answers you are getting. Ask for demo sites. Physically go to a site where the system you’re considering is running. [These things] will save you a great deal of time and heartache.”

That’s advice worth taking to heart, and here are a few helpful resources to get you started:

For more help, you can always reach out to our team of expert advisors. After a quick conversation, they’ll provide you with a short list of EHR systems that meet your unique needs.

You may also like:

New Medical Practice Checklist: How To Get Started

The 3 Challenges You’ll Face Opening an Independent Medical Practice

How to Start a Medical Practice From the Ground Up: A Case Study

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