Population Health vs Public Health: How To Do a Successful EHR Implementation
People often get confused and mix up the terms population health and public health. Perhaps this is because they both deal with the health and wellbeing of groups of people as opposed to that of individuals. Let us tell you how they are different.
When we talk of public health, we are referring to the health and well-being of the public at large. Public health issues are usually dealt with by the government-appointed Ministry of Health. This ensures that public health measures are subject to government rules and regulations and that the doctors and other healthcare professionals are doing their jobs properly. When we talk of population health, what we are really doing, is focusing on geographical groups and the health and well-being of the people within those groups. Moreover, population health focuses on societal groups and structures, and the behaviors and attitudes within those groups, especially those that have an effect on health. The eventual goal is to reduce the inequity between these groups and locations and improve overall health.
One of the biggest challenges that come with managing public and population health with strategies and regulations is the massive amount of data. What a good EHR system can do in this case, is to have all the data organized to facilitate decision making and improving on population and public health policies.
What Is Public Health Management?
Public health management is the ideal use of society’s resources as well as services towards improving public health and wellness.
What Is Population Health Management?
Population health management is a process involving the improvement of clinal health outcomes for defined groups of people through patient engagement and better care coordination facilitated by relevant financial as well as healthcare models. It really works by analyzing patient data and putting it together in the form of actionable records so that more informed decisions can be made.
The Need For an EHR Implementation Plan
How do we analyze patient data and turn it into actionable patient records? This is where the need for an EHR system arises, and it is exactly when we need to start thinking about an EHR implementation plan. EHR systems can facilitate the government as well as healthcare providers in understanding public and population healthcare trends. It can help in so many ways such as it can give patient risk scores, which can be especially helpful especially during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Health management programs need EHR software to be able to organize patient data and generate reports. These reports can then be used to cut down expenses for Public Health Systems and improve patient outcomes. An EHR system helps generate a comprehensive picture of all the important data within a patient’s health records including the billing, pharmacies, labs, and even insurance claims.
An EHR implementation plan is a set of steps and strategies used by healthcare facilities when they are preparing for the implementation of an electronic health record system. EHR implementation needs a plan because it isn’t as simple as installing a software solution and you are done with it. It involves the integration of the EHR solution into the existing workflow of your organizational structure and healthcare processes. Therefore it is important to carefully plan what, when, and how.
Let us first outline the steps in our EHR implementation plan:
- Create an EHR implementation checklist.
- Build a team of EHR implementation specialists.
- Devise an EHR implementation timeline to work around.
- Outline the EHR implementation steps and strategies.
- Predict EHR implementation challenges that will come your way.
- Devise EHR implementation team roles.
The EHR Implementation Checklist
You can call it the roadmap or checklist, but what it does is, that it tells you everything you need to do to carry out a successful EHR implementation from the beginning to the end.
- Select a team of EHR specialists that will help you implement the software and perhaps even add members who will help run the software and manage it when it’s up and running.
- Gather all the requirements needed and determine the functionality and features your healthcare practice requires in an EHR for it to operate efficiently.
- Have your EHR specialist team submit RFIs and RFPs to various relevant prospective vendors.
- Study and evaluate the responses and proposals you have received and determine which ones are right for your facility.
- Rank your proposals and vendors and ask the ones that fall in the top 2 or 3 to give you a demo.
- Evaluate from the demonstrations you are given and ask questions that help you determine whether the solution offered is good for your company.
- Select the vendor of your choice and negotiate a contract.
- Train your staff for the new software.
- Prepare for the deployment of your new EHR software solution.
Your EHR Implementation Specialist Team
Even if you compare population health with public health, you will realize that they both eventually deal with the health of entire communities or large groups of people. In both instances, EHR implementation would be a great help, and in both cases, the EHR team roles would remain the same.
After having clearly defined your EHR implementation tasks, you need a team that helps you execute your plan and ensure that everything happens within your timeline and your budget. An EHR implementation specialist team ensures that everything goes according to your plan. They help you with everything related to EHR implementation starting from gathering the requirements, to selecting the vendor, road mapping and project scheduling, migrating your data, helping staff adapt to change and conducting user training, and even security assessments.
Who you include in your team really depends on your budget as well as the scope of your project. How big is your healthcare facility and what do you need your EHR to be able to tell you? A lot of the members in your EHR implementation specialist team can be outsourced from third-party consultancies. A comprehensive EHR implementation team should include:
- Application Analyst
- App Developer
- Quality Assurance Specialist
- Project Manager
- Nurse Advocate (Representing nurses)
- Doctor Advocate (Representing doctors)
- Billing Advocate (Representing the billing department)
- MU Managers (In case you need meaningful use attestation)
- Early Adopters (For your training programs)
The EHR Implementation Process
The EHR implementation process starts with a thorough evaluation of the current workflow for each department in your organization. For some, this means having to evaluate their current paper-based system. Then you have to determine and define the needs of your organization including hardware needs, and any preferences in the features and functionality of the EHR solution. Then you have to select and train your early adopters, and then your staff, after which you plan to go live. However, the process does not end here, because complete implementation takes another 6 to 8 months after go-live. Let us discuss how the timeline works and also what steps the entire process entails.
The EHR Implementation Timeline
How long does an EHR implementation take anyway? The question must have crossed your mind. The truth is it is difficult to arrive at an accurate estimate because all organizations have different needs and priorities, and the resulting estimate may be very far from what you may need if your needs exceed the ones upon which the estimate is based, or are much simpler.
In any case, once the implementation plan is in place and the team is built, a simple cloud-based EHR implementation should not take more than 120 days. This includes all the hours for every member of the implementation team. However, as mentioned before the implementation will still be ongoing even after the go-live.
If we take it time-wise, then the initial evaluation will take 2 to 3 days after which the gathering the requirements may take from less than a month to around three months, then training of the early adopters may take about one week, and then, finally, training and go-live take about another month or so.
EHR Implementation Steps
Once you have already worked on your EHR implementation plan, have your team ready, and have devised your timeline, the steps aren’t too difficult. In fact, once you have selected your EHR software from a good healthcare app development company, such as Folio3, which is a custom medical software development firm, the road thereon is smooth-sailing and hassle-free.
The steps in an EHR implementation process after determining your needs, devising a plan, and forming a team are:
- Have your team look for and select a good HACCP compliant EHR software solution and get it installed.
- Check hardware requirements for the software and determine any hardware needs you may have, like purchasing tablets or laptops for your staff.
- Consider changing any doctor-patient interaction room setups to maximize patient satisfaction and engagement, especially with having to enter data and ensuring the patient that he is also being heard.
- Migrate all relevant data from your existing system into your new EHR system.
- Integrate your third-party applications and platforms with your EHR system. Choose Folio3 EHR/EMR integration services to get the most seamless integration and a smooth experience.
- Create workflows and roles before go-live to put your staff at ease and minimize any issues that are faced.
- Determine any challenges you may face and what to do in the face of any challenge, such as how to handle the situation if and when your EHR is down.
- Conduct a training program and let your early adopters teach the rest of the staff to minimize communication gaps and issues. Make sure you have an ongoing training program.
- Decide whether you want to launch in one go or do it on an incremental basis so that the staff can have time to get used to things.
- Launch your EHR.
- Keep gathering feedback from your users for continuous improvement.
These are the typical steps involved in implementing EHR, but healthcare facilities often forget the importance of a seamless interface. For this reason, the EHR implementation team needs to ensure that the system has a top-notch UX medical design as it optimizes the EHR functionality. In addition, it enhances the physician’s access to patient data for better patient care.
EHR Implementation Strategies
The only foolproof strategy that can get you a successful EHR implementation is getting hold of an excellent medical app development company such as Folio3. Folio3 offers custom EHR/EMR software solutions and guarantees you a successful EHR implementation. Other implementation strategies that can ensure a successful EHR implementation are as follows:
- Ensure that you have strong leadership and that everyone is on the same page and has the same vision.
- Take your doctors and healthcare providers in the loop right from the beginning and assure them that this is a clinically driven project for their convenience. Make sure they understand what is happening and why it is happening because eventually, they are the ones who will get you the outcomes you want.
- Prioritize your EHR implementation and deployment over all other projects.
- Optimize your existing workflows as a whole and leverage your EHR solution to drive the outcomes you desire.
- Test rigorously before going live so that there aren’t many issues later.
- Plan for ongoing training, and customizations because your initial implementations may need changes.
EHR Implementation Challenges
Whether you are dealing with population health or public health, EHR implementation does not come without its fair share of challenges. Some common implementation challenges are:
- Medical and admin staff resistance to the EHR system. People generally don’t like change and it takes them time to adopt the idea of computerized records.
- The cost of the program. EHR implementation is not cheap. But it saves way more than it costs in the long run and helps you improve the patient experience while minimizing costs.
- Training can be time-consuming. EHR implementation is a big change and it needs thorough training for the doctors and other staff which can take up quite some time depending on how tech-savvy your staff is.
- Staff can show resistance. As mentioned, no one likes change. Doctors may be reluctant to give up the paper-based documentation process.
- Patient data privacy. Patient privacy is actually a major concern for most organizations and this can be a big challenge unless the EHR being installed is HIPAA certified.
- Limited technical resources. Most small and medium-sized healthcare organizations do not have in-house technical resources. This includes both human resources as well as hardware that is needed for the EHR software solution to run efficiently.
- Going Digital. This can also be a huge challenge because migrating huge amounts of data from paper-based documents to a computer system can be time-consuming as well as difficult.
- Hurdles in the workflow. Even though EHR systems are technically supposed to organize the workflow, sometimes it may disrupt and break up the workflow, especially if it isn’t tailored to the particular healthcare organization. This is why a custom Folio3 telemedicine solution would be an apt choice for your healthcare facility because it takes every minute detail of your workflow into consideration.
- Lack of effective communication. If there are any communication gaps between the medical software development company and the healthcare organization, it can have serious implications and cause delays in EHR implementation.
- Interoperability. Interoperability has become a necessity for EHR systems so that there can be better health outcomes for patients and more efficient care coordination. This challenge can easily be overcome by using a Folio3 HL7 integration solution.
Not Too Difficult, Was It?
A successful EHR implementation is actually not that difficult if you have the right resources and the right team. EHR systems can drastically improve both population health and public health outcomes as well as health surveillance and reporting by collecting data in such a form that is easy to share across various healthcare facilities and organizations.
Whether you are affiliated with public health or population health, make it easier for yourself by hiring a good medical app development company, which will help you sort out your requirements and customize your EHR to cater to your needs.
1. How does EHR support population health?
Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems support population health by providing accurate clinical measurements of the distributions and levels of various diseases as well as the well-being and functional capacity of the people suffering from them. They do this by providing patient health and well-being data and maintaining comprehensive population health records.
2. How is public health informatics different from health informatics?
Public health informatics is all about the effective use of computer science and information technology and data analytics to be able to enhance and improve population health outcomes whereas health informatics is more about improving health outcomes in general.
3. What are examples of public or population health informatics?
Some examples are such as bio-surveillance, electronic laboratory reporting systems, vaccination management, and outbreak management.
4. How can public health informatics grow?
Public health informatics can grow and improve if we address the gaps present in the existing programs as well as larger issues such as structural deficiencies. It can also be made to improve with the help of better communication between the government and healthcare organizations.
5. What does public health informatics do?
Public health information leverages applied information science and technology to keep patient health information usable, responsive, and secure, and to generally improve public health outcomes.