How to Ensure Pharmacy Concerns are Met in The EHR Implementation Process

May 15, 2017 3:06:30 PM · by David Kushan

Electronic health record (EHR) systems can have a significant impact on a pharmacy team’s day-to-day operations and workflows, and a system implemented without input from the pharmacy can create major issues. Problems that affect your ability to efficiently complete tasks can have a ripple effect throughout the hospital. Having a seat at the table can help to ensure the pharmacy department’s concerns are met throughout the EHR implementation process.

Highlight Pharmacy’s Connectivity Throughout the Hospital

The pharmacy team regularly interacts with nurses, doctors, and other clinical staff; IT Pharmacists work with project managers, IT managers, even business and finance team members. Each of these connections with other departments can be vitally important to the overall operations of a hospital. Making that connectivity as visible as possible to project leaders can help to demonstrate why it can be critical that the pharmacy team play a major role in the EHR project implementation process.

For example, you can highlight the relationships with nursing and billing:

  • Nurses are often the ones actually sending in medication orders, and this vital connection will depend on the reliability and usefulness of the EHR system being implemented. The pharmacy’s input in the planning stages could be the difference between a system that makes patient care more efficient and one that makes it more challenging for nurses to do their jobs
  • Effective management of programs like Medicare and 340B depends heavily on the connection between the pharmacy and billing teams. Efficient administration of these programs and the associated liabilities requires a carefully designed system; If the pharmacy team isn’t involved in that system’s design it can create significant operational challenges for your billing team.

Position Pharmacy as a Champion of Innovation

If your department has a reputation for being highly resistant to change, it’s less likely you’ll be targeted as a potential partner in planning those changes. Departments who are most open to and enthusiastic about new technologies generally have a greater chance of being included in the implementation of new technology projects.  

There are so many new technologies being developed to support the work of pharmacy teams such as antimicrobial steward software with or without CDS, IV workflow management systems, and O.R. room technologies for managing medications. Actively researching and advocating for the discussion of new tools like these can help establish the pharmacy department’s reputation as champions of innovation; and offer a foot in the door when projects like an EHR implementation are being planned. Regularly communicating that pharmacy staff are enthusiastic users and adopters of new tools can help to identify the team as good potential partners to the EHR project team.

Tout Pharmacy’s Informatics Experience

Pharmacy teams often have an impressive breadth of experience using existing hospital informatics systems. This technology-specific knowledge can often be invaluable to EHR implementation teams, helping them to understand the details of any given hospital’s end-user requirements.

Who better to involve in the development of new informatics technologies than those who have interacted with the existing systems the most? Pharmacy staff may be the ideal example of an EHR platform’s end-user. The value that the pharmacy team can offer here is likely already clear to the pharmacy team - the trick is finding productive ways to effectively communicate that value to project leadership.

Part of getting this valuable information into the hands of implementation team members is being willing to proactively reach out to them and offer it. Stepping forward to offer unsolicited input into a project is often daunting, so department leaders may find it effective to frame their efforts to participate in the implementation process through the lens of their team’s extensive experience. Offering your team’s assistance in any quality assurance testing is an easy way to communicate the value you offer.

Openly Give Feedback Whenever Given the Chance

Pharmacy teams are on the front lines of informatics users in the hospital; they review thousands of orders, and know the ins and outs of the tools. If there’s an issue with a workflow that’s necessitated a workaround, it’s highly likely pharmacy is aware of it.

If pharmacy staff are diligent about reporting issues and giving feedback regularly to hospital IT, a close working relationship can develop and pharmacy may become trusted partners in the hospital’s internal IT environment. Building and maintaining this relationship can help create a situation in which hospital stakeholders who must be included in an EHR implementation (i.e. Internal IT staff) will advocate for the inclusion of pharmacy stakeholders as well.

Build Relationships With Other Key Stakeholders

Certain key members of a hospital’s staff tend to have more influence over the process of implementing a new EHR platform, including the chief nursing officer, the head of informatics, project managers, and the CFO or RCM director. Working strategically to develop a dialogue with these key colleagues about the pharmacy department’s potential role in the EHR project can go a long way towards having a seat at the table.

Begin by considering the perspective and priorities of whomever you are working to engage with; while patient care is the ultimate goal of all hospital staff, different departments may have different opinions about how to best achieve that goal.

Once you’re able to identify and understand the priorities of a key stakeholder, you can try to express your understanding of the pharmacy team’s value in a way that they are more likely to be receptive to.  It’s helpful to remember that your colleagues in other departments may be more apt to agree with your assessment of the pharmacy team’s value in the EHR Implementation process if you can express it in a context they are more familiar with.

If you are a member of a hospital pharmacy team and have any additional tips for getting a seat at the table during an EHR implementation, please let us know in the comment section below.


Learn more about how emerging technologies are leading to exciting healthcare innovations by downloading our latest eBook "The Future of Healthcare: How Technology Could Change the Way Healthcare is Administered".

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