It's been roughly eight years since President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law. Designed to counter the recession's effects, it flooded industry and individual pockets with stimulus funds. From encouraging first-time homebuyers to jump into the housing market, to investing in infrastructure, more than $800 billion eventually made its way into the struggling economy.
Of that $800 billion, $19 billion was set aside for healthcare IT to assist providers in transitioning from paper to electronic health records (EHR) systems. While financial penalties for EHR non-compliance entered the picture in 2015 and will increase over time, some hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare centers still lack EHR systems. If you're one of them, fret not. Here are some tips for managing the transition from the Paper Age into the Digital Age.
While there is much to recommend about an electronic health records system, transitioning to one isn't without its obstacles. From compliance with state and federal laws like HIPAA, to ridding your files of redundancies and inconsistencies, the job is much more complex than it may seem at first glance. Once the transition has been made, you also have an entirely new system on which to train your staff. It can be a tricky path to maneuver.
Because of these difficulties, you need to do your homework, and find a partner capable of guiding you through the changeover. Here is a look at some of what you should know and some of what a partner should do to help you manage your transition from a paper records system to EHR.
The Bulk of It
Depending on how long you've been in operation, you likely have somewhere between "a lot" and "a mountain" of paper records. While the transition to EHR can and should happen for record-keeping that's currently going on, you still need to convert old paper records into an electronic format.
Choose a partner with a bulk conversion option and a willingness to limit the amount of records you convert. A measured and well-paced approach to converting old records will ensure the digitization of records from past years doesn't overwhelm your budget. Part of managing the transition involves performing it over an adequate timeframe that enables you to remain profitable.
Make Sure Your Work Works
Of course, it isn't just notes and records that are affected by an electronic health records system; workflow is affected, too. Let this time of transition be one in which processes that may no longer work as well as they once did are examined and made obsolete. EHR can actually help you and your staff become denizens of efficiency, productivity and better patient care.
The Persistence of Paper
Like it or not, even after you transition to EHR, some documents are still going to enter the world with pen and paper. However, they need to be quickly and efficiently integrated into your electronic records system. Make sure your healthcare IT partner can provide you with a conversion method that easily takes newly created paper documents and renders them electronically.
Managing the transition to EHR is likely to be among the most complicated processes you and your healthcare practice undergo. To make it as smooth as possible, do your homework, and make sure you choose a partner with the expertise to help you get the transition right.
Learn what it takes to master the complicated process of implementing the Cerner EHR platform into your organization by downloading our Ebook.