There are two schools of thought when it comes to implementing an electronic medical records (EMR) system.
One camp says you should take baby steps; learn to crawl before you try to run. We'll call this the incremental approach. The other group advises making the transition to electronic records all at once; face your fears, work out the kinks and enjoy your new software. Let's call this one the big bang approach.
Each implementation strategy has benefits and drawbacks, especially depending upon the size and type of physician office that will use the EMR. The incremental approach tends to lend itself best to larger physician practices, multi-specialty groups and environments where "office politics" runs high. It also works well when you're implementing a very complex electronic medical record system. The big bang approach, on the other hand, tends to work well with small (fewer than 10 physicians) practices, or offices where strong leadership exists.
Here are some of the pros and cons associated with both implementation strategies. If you're considering an electronic medical record purchase, think about which approach might work best in your practice.
The Incremental Implementation Strategy
• Reduces "change shock" to staff and physicians
• Spreads out costs of software and implementation over a longer period of time
• Portions of EMR functionality are rolled out in phases across all units
• In many cases, the project is less likely to lose momentum
• Total training, implementation costs may be higher
• Longer overall implementation of your electronic medical record
• ROI is not achieved as quickly
• Morale may decrease as implementation lags
• You may introduce a training lag if implementation phases are too far apart from training sessions
The Big Bang Implementation Strategy
• Everyone goes live at once
• Paper processes cease shortly after the EMR is "turned on"
• You're less likely to end up with a dual system
• You'll shorten the parallel paper/EMR operation period
• ROI is achieved more quickly
• When it is over, it's over!
• If you choose a complex electronic medical record system, there's a higher risk of blow up
• You'll likely encounter significant productivity reduction when you begin using the software system, and this could last for up to three months
• Inadequate planning may jeopardize full implementation
• Staff or physicians resistant to change may become overwhelmed
No matter the strategy you choose, it's important to stay focused (and committed!) to successfully implementing your electronic medical record system. Even the most affordable EMRs represent a considerable time and financial investment. With a little strategic planning, you'll get the most out of your software.