As an administrator or executive, you understand that choosing the right EMR solution for your post-acute care (PAC) organization is a massive undertaking. Complicating matters is the seemingly endless number of options available to choose from. Figuring out where to start only leads to paralysis by analysis.
Problem is, implementation of EMR for PAC organizations has shifted from “nice-to-have” to all but mandatory. This is due to The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) turning their attention toward PAC providers about the adoption of integrated EMR systems.
There’s a silver lining, though.
You see, PAC providers had not been eligible for Medicare/Medicaid incentive programs related to the adoption of integrated EMR. But CMS’s new focus on incentivizing PAC providers to adopt integrated health IT systems presents a great opportunity to improve care transition (and thus patient outcomes) and your profitability. This is why choosing the right solution is so important.
This article offers several key tips to get you started.
Before choosing an EMR solution, it’s important to build a team that’ll spearhead the project. Leading the team is a project manager. The project manager oversees the entire project and makes sure it stays on-track.
There should also be a clinical team leader. While the project manager acts as a liaison with the vendor, the clinical team leader acts as a liaison with clinical staff. This allows staff to stay well informed about the progress of the project. It also allows the clinical liaison to communicate questions and concerns from the clinical staff to the rest of the team.
Also added to the team are select members from departments that will use the EMR in their daily work (e.g. clinical staff, billing, admin/scheduling). This allows the team to test each system in an integrated way. A way that reflects their real-world workflow. Rounding out the team is a final decision maker. Someone with the authority and responsibility for the final word on all approvals.
A team such as this assures that key stakeholder in the organization are part of the process. This facilitates buy in from staff in the organization, mitigating the chances of adverse issues down the road.
Now that you’ve assembled your all-star team, what are some key considerations they should look for when shopping for vendors?
Let’s take a look.
When shopping for a new EMR solution, the importance of interoperability can’t be overstated. It plays a significant role in the organization’s workflow, safe care transition, and patient outcomes.
So what is interoperability?
Interoperability refers to a system’s ability to integrate with other outside systems to share information. And interoperability important in healthcare because, when done well, it allows seamless communication between providers across the continuum of care.
Unfortunately, this is an ongoing problem in the PAC industry. A recent Black Book survey of long-term and PAC providers indicates that 86% of long-term PAC facilities do not exchange electronic health information with referring hospitals or other outside providers.
Given the push by CMS to incentivize improved interoperability in the PAC world, it’s in your best interest to consider the strength of their system’s interoperability when searching for EMR vendors.
Ease of Workflow
No matter how “good” a system appears to be, it’s only as good as your staff’s ability to use it. The aforementioned Black Book survey also indicated that 49% of the providers surveyed reported their staff as having extremely poor to non-existent skills regarding the use of health IT systems.
That’s a staggering figure!
Because this lack of skill leads to poor productivity. This leads to staff burnout followed by turnover, all of which are detrimental to patient outcomes and costly to the organization (from financial and workplace culture standpoint).
This is where the select department members on your implementation team are most effective. They’ll be the ones to provide invaluable feedback about the ease of workflow (or lack thereof) in a particular EMR system.
Training & Support
Proficiency in the use of health IT systems doesn’t start after implementation. It starts with robust training before going live.
When vetting potential vendors, you’ll want to establish the level of training that will be provided to the staff. You’ll also want to inquire whether additional training will be provided to select staff designated as super-users. The super-user’s role is to support clinicians once the new system goes live.
Just as important, you’ll want to also find out the level of customer support that’s available once the system is implemented. How do they handle troubleshooting issues? Do they handle customer support in-house or is it outsourced? What happens if there is a serious technical issue after-hours or on the weekend?
These are questions you’ll need to consider during the vetting process.
Any discussion about how to choose an EMR vendor is incomplete without considering the obvious question “What’s it going to cost?”
On the surface, the most obvious criterion is the lower the cost, the better. But with an investment of this magnitude, it’s not that simple.
Sure, you need to establish a budget that’s appropriate for your organization’s needs. But there are other factors to consider. For instance, a system that meets all your organization’s internal needs (e.g. documentation, scheduling, billing) and is inexpensive seems to be a good deal, right? But if it can’t integrate with the referral hospitals and other providers, front-end saving may well lead to back-end cost. And at the expense of proper care transition and patient outcomes, no less.
Conversely, if a system is more costly on the front-end but has robust integration that allows outside facility and provider communication, the net effect may be lower cost. Especially when factoring in the potential incentives from CMS.
Another cost factor to consider is the level of flexibility the system has. Can it be customized to suit the needs of your organization while excluding features that aren’t needed? How does customization affect the pricing?
One final important factor is what kind of demo is available. The only real way to best determine if a system is going to be a good investment for your organization is to dive in and see what it can do.
Vetting with Success Stories
So you think you’ve found a vendor (or at least narrowed the field). They check all the important boxes and seem to be a great fit for your organization.
But then you think: “What’s the catch?”
After all, no one (business or individual) is perfect. And of course, they’re putting their best foot forward to earn your business. So how do you know what to expect once signing on the dotted line? Case studies and testimonials, that’s how!
Current clients willing to go on the record to tell their “success stories” are powerful proof of a vendor’s credibility. That’s because it is coming from someone other than the vendor. When doing your research, looking for testimonials and/or case studies for potential vendors is a low-risk/high-reward vetting tool.
Choosing an EMR solution for your PAC organization is not a task, it’s a process that involves input from several key stakeholders. Whether you’re considering an EMR solution for the first time or you’re looking to change vendors, you must first have an action plan. With the right plan in place, your organization is in a great position to choose the right EMR solution — one that improves provider communication, care transition, and patient outcomes. In the end this means a lower cost of care, ultimately paying for itself.