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Want EMR Success: Start with Your Processes

Want EMR Success: Start with Your Processes
10 June 2016

One of the most critical steps in mapping an ideal EHR system is to evaluate processes and workflow in a medical practice. A thorough and well-defined process map lays the foundation for the tools, features, and modules an EHR system will need to elevate the efficiency and productivity of providers and their staff.

The Importance of Process Definition

Just as custom EHR systems reduce long-term costs after an initial investment of money, so too do they reduce time and frustration later on after an early investment of time and energy. Defining processes and workflow before beginning an EHR customization process cannot be undervalued or overlooked, as all of the architecture of a system will rest upon this phase.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services highlights three levels of process understanding that are critical to bear in mind when mapping workflow. These include “perceived process (what we think is happening)” followed by “reality process (what the process actually is)” and finally “ideal process (what the process could be).”

Typical Processes to Identify

To align EHR customization with best practices, processes must be identified and linked to overall practice flow. A few typical processes that must be designed include:

  • Prescription refills

Defining this process can be critical for any practice, from internal medicine to walk-in clinics. Determining workflow designations such as who refills prescriptions, when this takes place, and how patients request refills can help to shape the customization of an EHR.

  • Inputting laboratory and test results

Whether a technician is transferring interpretations from radiology to an in-house records system, or whether physicians wish to import lab results or document their own interpretations, defining these processes early can help to reduce frustrating bottlenecks during busy periods.

  • Scheduling

There are numerous creative solutions to reduce traffic and interruptions in practice flow from scheduling activities. Some practices opt for a designated scheduler; others delegate physicians to this task only in the event of surgical follow-ups; there are countless ways to handle the scheduling process. Nonetheless, this process should be carefully and thoroughly defined, and an EHR system should be customized to reflect those workflow decisions.

EHR customization examples like these not only enable a practice to achieve best practices, but also help to enhance flow and efficiency. Mapping the perceived, reality, and ideal processes associated with these items will help focus the very best customization of an EHR system.

Custom vs. Standard Processes

While ensuring that process definition is closely tailored to an individual practice’s needs and workflow, too much specificity across the board can result in the same consequences as none at all. Sluggish practice flow and confusion may also occur with unnecessary specification. Therefore, striking a balance between standard and custom processes is key. The bottom line is determining where the need for customization lies, and closely addressing those workflow components.

An EHR system’s impact is most positive when processes are defined with the “big picture” goals and needs of a practice in mind.

A strong foundation of well-mapped processes and workflow in a medical practice sets the stage for EHR success. Whether building or modifying an EHR system for a small practice or a large group, we at ZH Healthcare understand that investing initial time and thought into process definition is one of the best ways to prepare and plan for the best possible EHR system configuration.

Contact us today to start planning a process-based EHR system to support the efficiency of your practice and the well-being of your patients.