One of the challenges of choosing a new EHR is considering the long-term investment.
Implementing any new system into a medical clinic is a potential short-term disruption, so there needs to be an assurance that your decision to change EHR services will serve you well moving forward.
The rapid pace of technological ensures that most doctors will switch their electronic records system throughout their career.
Some doctors start building a medical practice with a budget, and then become ready to pay more for a full service EHR. Others are simply dissatisfied with their current system and want to move to something more suited to their needs.
Very often the big issues that arises is with data continuity. Changing EHR systems should ideally mean that you retain access to your previous patient records. But this is not always the case. The fear of transferring data and losing vital information is a real threat.
With the recent growth in cloud-based EHRs, your patient data is no longer stored on a local server in-house, rather it is under the care of the EHR vendor.
The good news is that the ease of transferring medical records has been steadily improving over the last several years. The recent wave of federal regulations relating to Meaningful Use includes a set of standards developed to enable electronic referrals and cross-provider communication.
These standards describe the specific structure and elements of a patient record, so that any two EHR applications which adhere to the standards, should be readily able to exchange patient data from one to the other.
The creation of these standards makes it easier to transfer patient care data from one provider to another. This technology process is also used to import all patient records from one EHR to another.
For any two EHR applications, it is unlikely that all data will transfer over seamlessly. You need to check with your new vendor which information is essential.
Start with Structured Data.
This includes ICD9 Diagnosis codes, medication lists, procedure lists, allergies, and immunizations. Detailed chart notes and SOAP-type templates can prove to be difficult because the data is unstructured, and free text format may not transfer easily from one EHR technology to another.
In order to meet Meaningful Use certification, EHR vendors are required to be able to produce this data in a standardized, structured format for any given patient. However, they are NOT required to be able to automatically export all data for all patients.
With some EHR vendors, they may charge a processing fee for creating an export file of all of your patient data. A new EHR vendor may also charge you a fee for importing previous data.
This fee will vary based on the volume and complexity of your previous record set.
Testing the new System
Once the data transfer has been the second step is testing. Anyone familiar with the process will tell you the the transfers are rarely executed perfectly on the first round. So be patient and persistent.
It is necessary to perform careful quality testing to validate that your data in the new environment is accurate, just like in the old environment.
The simplest way to do this is to select a small test group of your patient population and manually verify that everything is exactly correct for those people. Check both systems to see that everything is correct and orderly. Ensure that you check more than contact information, also review medication lists, procedure lists, allergy lists, and immunization lists. Detailed chart notes and SOAP-type templates can also show if the data has transferred effectively.
If you find an error in the record of one individual, chances are that it is a systemic problem that is affecting many other patient records in your population.
If you identify any problems, you will then need to work with both EHR vendors to determine the origin of the issue and correct it. This can be time consuming, but also worth fixing early.
Even with cloud based date, and modern EHR systems, data transfer can still be a challenging process for any provider to undertake.