EHR adoption isn’t slowing down, but that doesn’t mean hospitals are having an easy time implementing new systems. Here’s some help overcoming the top EHR challenges providers are facing now. 

Right now, just 23% of healthcare providers don’t have an EHR system, according to the 2013 Technology Survey from Physicians Practice and ZirMed.

And among those, 15% plan to adopt one within in the next year.

However, just because a lot of hospitals are switching to electronic records doesn’t mean the transition isn’t without its headaches. Adopting EHRs was the top technology challenge for healthcare providers, cited by 19% of the organizations surveyed.

Among respondents that have already implemented an EHR system, only 13% described the process as “smooth sailing.” In comparison:

  • 51% said it was a little bumpy but could have been worse
  • 30% said the transition was “more painful than it needed to be,” and
  • 6% said the experience was “traumatizing.”

Here are some of the specific challenges organizations are facing when implementing EHRs — and what yours can do to overcome them:

1. Time

When switching to electronic records or changing to a new EHR system, it’s important to be realistic about how lengthy the process will be.

Hospitals can run into problems if they don’t initially budget enough time and money for the project.

And for some, a significant amount of time is needed. Among the providers surveyed by Physicians Practice that had fully adopted a system, more than half (55%) said their EHR implementation took at least six months, with 17% requiring more than 18 months.

The bottom line: It will pay off down the road to get an accurate estimate of how long the EHR implementation will take and make sure the organization is prepared to devote that much time and possibly more.

2. Staffing levels

When hospitals implement EHR systems, they don’t just have to pay for the cost of the software and hardware — there are several hidden costs as well.

One that a lot of organizations must pay for: additional staff required to manage the system.

Some need to bring in more people or at least increase scheduling initially to make up for any drops in efficiency as the organization gets used to the new system. Others find they need people full-time to manage EHRs.

Among providers using EHRs, 17% said they had to add staff to manage the system. An additional 17% still aren’t sure how staffing levels will be affected, and 14% have had an EHR system for so long they aren’t sure what changes were made to the number of employees.

3. Lack of skills and cooperation

Another additional cost that can’t be skimped on: training. Studies have shown that offering clinicians and others the right amount of EHR training can greatly improve the quality of care delivered and the organization’s satisfaction with the system.

No two groups of EHR users are alike, so each hospital will have to determine how much and what kind of training is necessary. A lot depends on how much general experience clinicians and staff members have with computers.

Fortunately, for the providers surveyed, almost everyone who should be using the system is able to do so. However, there are still 7% that say there are some people who are trying to use EHRs but can’t quite get the hang of it. In those situations, it’ll be up to the organization to offer enough training to get them up to speed.

In addition to training people on how to use the EHR system, it’s also important to stress why they should be using it. There were also 5% of providers that said some people within the organization were refusing to use EHRs. It’s important to properly explain the benefits to get those hold-outs on board.

4. Vendor dissatisfaction

Like several other recent surveys, the poll from Physicians Practice found that most organizations aren’t happy with their current choice of EHR vendor.

In fact, just 14% of respondents said they’re completely satisfied and would recommend the vendor to other organizations. Another 40% are somewhat satisfied, while the rest are either on the fence or completely dissatisfied.

Similar results were found by the American College of Physicians and AmericanEHR Partners earlier this year. According to that poll, overall satisfaction with EHR systems dropped by 12% in 2012 compared to 2010, according to the study. In addition, among the 4,200 physicians surveyed, 39% said they would not recommend their current EHR system to a colleague — an increase from 24% who said the same thing in 2010.

The result: Many hospitals are trying to replace their current EHR system.

For those organizations — or those that are still looking for their first system — they can avoid problems in the future by following these keys to selecting an EHR system.

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