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4 Tips to EMR Implementation Success


IT experts, who will be presenting at the SIIM annual meeting, offer advice on how radiology practices can survive EMR implementation.

When it comes to the implementation of new technologies,, radiology is considered a leader among medical specialties. True-to-form, the industry is now on the leading edge of employing electronic medical records (EMRs), as practitioners move to take advantage of federal incentives in the meaningful use program. Despite their tendency to be tech-savvy, radiologists still could use some guidance for successful EMR implementation, a topic of an expert panel at this year’s Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) annual meeting.

The panel plans to focus on what radiology practices and departments can do survive and facilitate the implementation process. And, according to participants, there are strategies you can employ to stream-line these efforts.

“Because of the need to maintain and work with RIS and PACS systems, there has been a long-standing relationship between radiology and the information technology offices,” said Jim Turnbull, chief information officer for the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics. “These groups have worked closely together, and there aren’t any surprises anymore. But as we continue to move forward with EMRs, there are still things people should keep in mind.”

1. Get Buy-In: The most important step in properly putting your EMR in place is ensuring your facility’s governance supports the project from the top down. It’s critical to making sure the set-up goes as smoothly as possible.

“You don’t want to be part way into EMR implementation and have people start second-guessing everything and saying that it’s too expensive,” Turnbull said. “It’s a lot more costly to change direction.”

It’s possible to avoid stumbling blocks by working with human resources staff to design a detailed strategic plan, he said.

2. Form a Diversified Team: Even though radiology is one of the most tech-savvy specialties, effective EMR implementation will require several outside partnerships.

The most successful teams include representatives from the emergency department, nursing, pharmacy, IT, labs, and other specialties, according to Julie Riddler, the project manager for implementing the Epic EMR at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. It can also be helpful for project leaders to participate in other hospital committees, such as ambulatory, inpatient, and physician steering teams.

3. Prepare for the Long-Term: As complicated as correctly implementing an EMR can be, it isn’t the end of the process, Turnbull said. There will always been a need for maintenance or a new way to maximize what your system can offer.

“Optimization continues forever,” he said. “The key is establishing a mindset in the office culture that you can’t just plug the EMR in and let it be. This type of system never works that way. The practice or department must be onboard with consistently trying to make things better.”

Conducting a needs assessment prior to implementation can give you an idea of any future changes that might be required.

4. Invest in Personnel Training: Institutional support and identifying your organization’s needs can only take you so far. It’s also important to provide training for all staff and providers who will play a role in implementing and using the EMR.

To reach this goal at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Riddler facilitated one-on-one and group coaching sessions on using the Epic EMR, as well as offered staff and leadership development curricula around key competencies. She also engaged professionals from other health systems to provide more extensive technical training.

Although other specialties are joining the push to implement EMR solutions, radiology still has the opportunity to maintain its leadership position, Turnbull said, through proper and thorough planning.

“The big challenge will always be making sure you’re putting the networks in place to manage the huge image movement around your organization,” Turnbull said. “But if practices and departments work hard to provide an environment of partnership, then the implementation situation will be workable.”

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