Best Practices For Rural Hospital EHR Implementation Success

Posted on by Frank J. Rosello

Rural and community hospitals should develop an effective plan of action that unites IT departments, internal administration and clinical providers to have the best chance of meeting meaningful use now and in the future.

The challenges for these smaller and often cash-strapped facilities are daunting, and can “extend across the entire organization and impact all staff and patients along the continuum of care,” said Char Wray, vice president of clinical operations and information systems, and chief clinical and information officer at Elyria, Ohio-based EMH Healthcare.

“There is a requirement for expertise in multiple areas to support the build and implementation of the solution and the significant change in the workflow of the clinicians,” she added. “It can be difficult to balance all of the demands while delivering on our primary mission to provide quality care in a cost effective manner.”

Other challenges for community hospitals include the upfront investments required for technology and slow-to-receive reimbursements. “In addition to an investment in technology, there’s the cost of actually utilizing it,” said Wray. “For example, there’s the cost of educating end-users and effective change management.”

In addition, most rural have to deal with minimal IT staff onsite and an infrastructure that does not support the required expansion in electronic health records  systems. And it seeks to show how approaching IT implementation as not just an “IT project” but a “clinical transformation” requiring significant buy-in and effort from the top down.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives has noted the need to “reach out to rural and community hospitals in a really pointed way,” according to Fred Bazzoli, CHIME’s senior director of communications. “These smaller hospitals have to put aside competitive differences and stay in contact with each other to facilitate information transfer.”

In order to help and better prepare rural and community hospitals to successfully implement EHR technology and meet meaningful use, consider the following areas to prioritize when developing  a strategic plan:

  • Putting in place a strong foundation to deliver on all care requirements.
  • IT teams reaching out to develop stronger relationships with physicians and clinical staff or partner with a healthcare IT solutions provider.
  • Establishing the logical sequence for what needs to be deployed and in doing so, developing milestones and setting tangible goals.

“The new MU requirements are instrumental in guiding a change in the way patients engage with their healthcare teams,” said Wray. “This is a huge transformation in the way we traditionally interact, and it keeps me up at night. I want to make sure we engage patients in a meaningful way, so that they can be an active partner in their healthcare decision making with their healthcare team.”

Proceeding toward Stage 2 and Stage 3 MU requirements will  be even more challenging for rural and community hospitals.  Such challenges require the support of the entire industry in order for these facilities to remain viable and continue to provide the type of meaningful and relevant care that is offered by larger medical organizations.

Our mission at Environmental Intelligence is to deliver quality healthcare IT services and solutions to rural and community hospitals that are Physician Focused. Patient Driven.®


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