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What is an EMR Conversion?

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Scot Nemchik, CCS, CRC, CLSS
September 23, 2021

8 Tips to Get it Done Right

Every healthcare organization that is acquired, merges or retires an outdated EMR system faces the challenge of an EMR conversion. An EMR conversion is a complex process that involves migrating all patient data from paper files and/or legacy electronic medical records (EMRs) to a single enterprise-wide electronic health record (EHR) system.

When an EMR conversion is done right, the process appears seamless to clinicians, patients, and other staff members. Vital patient data is accurate and available immediately after conversion, and providers trust the data and feel confident about using the new system. Patients enjoy a positive experience, with appropriate and timely care management based on a holistic view of their medical history. The administrative staff has the information they need to optimize reimbursements.

However, when there are flaws in planning or executing an EMR conversion, every aspect of the organization’s operations is impacted, from scheduling appointments to monitoring patients’ health to making treatment decisions to managing the entire revenue cycle. Not only does the organization’s reputation suffer, but gaps in care and medication history can lead to significant treatment errors.

So, how do you plan a conversion that ensures provider acceptance, appropriate care, patient safety, and uninterrupted revenue cycle management?

The following 8 tips can set you up for EMR Conversion success.

  1. Develop an effective communication plan: An EMR conversion involves some level of disruption, regardless of how well it is executed. Everyone who will be affected by the conversion should be informed of the process and what will be required of them throughout the process. They should be given regular updates so they can plan accordingly. You can maximize positive adoption by sharing your selection decision as well as the practice and financial benefits of implementing the new enterprise-wide system.
  2. Establish what data gets migrated: Having accurate and relevant data is critical for both patient care and population health management. Gaps in medical history, prescribed medications, allergies, and test results can lead to inappropriate or unnecessary treatment. Providers should always be able to access the information they need to make informed decisions, both before and after data migration.
  3. Determine when to migrate different types of data: The data in patient charts is both structured (already formatted into specific fields of information) and unstructured (typed of hand-written notes, PDFs, photos, slides, audio, faxes). You need a plan to identify and abstract the most valuable data elements so they can be immediately available during your EHR rollout. This may include problem lists, allergies, medications, immunizations, past medical histories, past surgical histories, and family histories. Additionally, create a schedule to migrate all other vital records and notes. Your providers and staff should never have to dig through archives to find valuable data that is critical to clinical decision-making.
  4. Develop advocates: If relevant, determine team members (clinicians, nurses, staff members) who will become power users, promote the benefits of the new system, help train the rest of your staff, and be onsite to troubleshoot when necessary.
  5. Assess interim staffing needs: Determine what staff members require training on the new EHR system. While your permanent staff is being trained, you’ll need temporary staff to cover for them. Not all staff can be trained at the same time, since some will need to manage the temporary staff. Your staffing plan and training schedule should take that into consideration.
  6. Do pre-training: Your EHR vendor should be able to provide instructional materials on their system that clinicians and staff can review in advance of the training. Those who are already familiar with the general workflows will be ready with their questions and take less time to be trained.
  7. Train: Too many providers complain that they didn’t get proper training on their EHR systems and have to learn on the job, which takes away from the time they can interact with their patients. It’s critical that the vendor your organization selects provides a training program that is comprehensive and effective.
  8. Evaluate training effectiveness: Work with your EHR vendor to set up simulations after training to test how well your staff understands the system and its functionality. Ideally, everyone who will be using the new EHR system should feel confident that they know how to input and access data seamlessly.

Ciox has been facilitating EMR conversions for over 10 years. We lead the industry in proprietary preload abstraction services that are proven to manage the workflow and ensure every patient’s EHR information is available before their first post-conversion appointment.

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