There are key transitions in any business when it makes sense to pause and consider updating your tools and practices. In the behavioral health field, one of these points is when you’re growing from a solo provider practice to a multi-provider practice. Such a transition obviously comes with some new logistical challenges. One often-overlooked element is your electronic health record (EHR) system, a critical component that can significantly impact the efficiency of your practice. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind before you switch EHR systems:
- Just because your EHR worked well enough for your solo practice doesn’t mean it will work as well once there are two (or more!) practitioners
Clutter in the System
- Imagine one day, after living in your house for decades, you decide to rent it out. Suddenly, you notice that the towels are in a hard-to-reach cabinet and that the kitchen is organized in a way that only makes sense to you. You could get discouraged at the amount of work needed and decide not to rent out your home.
- Much like your house, your current EHR is set up according to the way you like things. And while it may be working well enough, surely you have some half-finished projects or documents organized in a way that only makes sense to you.
- When your practice is growing, you want a clean and concise system that will work well for you and for the providers you plan to hire.
Reorganizing vs. Starting Fresh
- You have two options: Spend time reorganizing your current setup to accommodate multiple providers or start fresh with a new EHR “house” that is designed to accommodate multiple providers already.
How do you know which option to choose? It all depends on your growth plans and your current EHR, how well it can handle a multiple provider structure, and how well it will serve you as you continue to grow in the future. While you’re operating a solo provider practice, it’s a low lift to switch EHRs. Once you start adding the second, third, and more providers, the migration process gets more intense and involved. Looking down the road, consider where you want to be in a year, or in two years. When will it be easiest to switch EHR systems?
Your EHR might have hidden inefficiencies that could hinder the smooth operation of a group practice. The importance of a streamlined EHR extends to fostering collaboration among providers. When the system is organized and clutter-free, providers can easily access and share essential information. This facilitates better communication and better coordination of care. With a streamlined system that allows providers to work together effectively, a practice can better serve its patients. Making the right choice can set the foundation for a scalable and thriving behavioral health practice.
Choosing an EHR that aligns with your growth plans is crucial, as switching systems later on can be much more challenging and disruptive. What should you consider to make this time of transition for your practice as smooth as possible?
Examine how well your existing system can handle adding new providers. Evaluating your EHR helps ensure that the system can adapt to the increased volume of patient data, appointments, and communication channels that will result from multiple practitioners, facilitating a smooth and efficient workflow for all involved. How can providers communicate with each other? How can multiple providers access patient records? How can providers communicate with each patient’s wider care team? An EHR that can handle extensive collaboration is essential for a growing practice’s operations and overall productivity.
Conduct a cost-benefit analysis of switching EHRs. Consider not only the initial costs of transitioning to a new system, but also the potential long-term benefits of improved functionality, collaboration, and scalability. Don’t forget to factor in any training or downtime associated with the transition, as well as potential impacts on the patient experience.
Planning to Switch EHRs: EHR Implementation
Develop a plan in advance for a new EHR implementation if that’s the route you choose. A thoughtful implementation will simplify the EHR data migration process. The success of EHR implementation actually plays a crucial role in the overall functionality and user adoption—your providers must learn and use the system if your practice is going to realize any positive impacts from it. An EHR that offers comprehensive training and ongoing support is a must if you envision your practice continuing to grow. A seamless onboarding process for new providers is necessary for achieving operational efficiency and maintaining the quality of patient care. Choosing an EHR system with a robust implementation strategy sets the foundation for a successful and sustainable transition.
Data integrity, and minimizing the risk of data loss or corruption, is just as essential. This safeguards the continuity of patient care. In all of healthcare, but particularly in the field of behavioral health, maintaining the historical context of a patient’s journey is vital for effective treatment planning and delivery. Choosing an EHR system with advanced data migration features contributes to the overall efficiency and success of your practice.
Check out our EHR Migration Project Plan Template for a step-by-step walkthrough.
Consider the factors influencing your decision, including growth plans and scalability. Can your present EHR seamlessly expand to accommodate multiple providers, or will it require extensive modifications? Consider the capacity of your EHR to handle an increase in patient data, user accounts, and concurrent usage. And don’t forget to consider whether your EHR can adapt to future regulatory changes and industry standards as they evolve. A system that can grow with your practice is essential for long-term success.
Evaluate the costs associated with modifying your existing EHR to accommodate more providers. This may involve higher subscription fees or investing in additional features. Compare these costs to the costs of implementing a new EHR system designed for multi-provider practices. These costs may include licensing fees and installation costs. Over the longer term, which option makes the most financial sense for your practice?
Integrations are another factor to consider. An EHR tailored for the needs of a behavioral health practice may not require any integrations at all. But the ability to seamlessly incorporate additional tools down the road gives your practice flexibility and accounts for an increasingly interconnected healthcare environment.
When it Makes Sense to Switch EHR Systems
The decision to switch EHR systems before transitioning from a solo practice to a group practice is a critical one. Reflect on the challenges of accommodating multiple providers, the potential clutter in your current EHR system, and the choice between reorganizing and starting fresh. Consider other factors as well, including your practice’s plans for growth. By making a thoughtful and informed decision now, you are on your way to success.