Meaningful Use is top of mind and at the top of many project lists for hospitals across the country. With significant incentive payments now available, the pressure to exchange patient data with an electronic health record, or EHRElectronic Health Record (EHR), as defined in Defining Key Health Information Technology Terms (The National Alliance for Health Information Technology, April 28, 2008): An electronic record of health-related information on an individual that conform... More, is unprecedented.

Although there are many factors to consider regarding the selection of an EHR, ultimately the goal is to improve the customer experience at the point of care. Behind the scenes, how your organization chooses to deliver connectivity to and from your EHR will be quickly recognized by your users, the providers and ultimately the patient.

There are many things to consider when implementing and integrating an EHR. One of the most important long-term considerations should be the interface goals of your health system. It is critical to learn the interface goals of your regional health system and consider these goals as helpful clues to guide the most efficient and effective method of integration for your organization. Long-term plans must account for future integration with an HIE, regional health repository, or even a national network (pdf). having the infrastructure in place to support these connections in the beginning will help your organization accommodate those demands in the future.

it is also very important to engage the users of the ehr early in the selection process. this includes users such as nurses, department managers, medical assistants, as well as your it support staff. the ehr must be capable of meeting their required media content and monitoring preferences. their experiences and opinions must help direct the integration strategy.

because for the incentive for meaningful use dollars, one must ensure that the entire ehr solution is also onc-atcb certified. meaningful use incentive payments require participating organizations to provide evidence of the meaningful use of an onc-atcb certified electronic health record. if a facility purchases and implements an ehr that is not certified by an onc-authorized testing and certification body, the facility will not be eligible for meaningful use incentive payments.

one must also be aware of meaningful use deadlines. awareness of the meaningful use deadlines will ensure your facility receives the most it can from the meaningful use incentives and ultimately avoid penalties.

formulating a strategy by reflecting on the items above will help guide your ehr implementation. an effective strategy will act as a valuable benchmark to reference throughout the implementations process and provide a framework for the infrastructure needed to support future projects as well.

analyzing the strategy will aid in future integration decisions. as mentioned above, it is critical to understand the flexibility of your ehr to incorporate changing interface requirements over time. the ability to make changes efficiently will lead to an ehr that enhances performance and creates value for your organization.

ehr adoption is growing rapidly and these applications are helping physicians manage the relationships with their patients and accurately track their medical history. the objectives of ehrs are advantageous – creating a connected healthcare community, yet delivering high quality, efficient patient care.

read more in spring issue of START – Integrating an EHR with a Customer Approach (PDF).

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