First understand why you are doing it? What is on your list?
Communicate your reasons for change and plans to your staff and clients.
Make a plan
Transitioning to an electronic record is a significant project. Give it the attention it needs for greatest success.
Define your team. Involve staff from all roles early in the process. You may need to adjust job responsibilities to allow key staff time to implement your new electronic record.
Evaluate your internet service and devices. If transitioning to a software service like FOCUS, you’ll need reliable internet service to access your record. Tablets and laptops have batteries that last a long time, but if your modem and router lose power, they are useless. Consider using battery backup for your internet hardware. (Desktop computers require a larger battery backup than internet hardware.) You can find more information on the internet and often find products at great prices on Amazon. Your internet service provider might also have back up options. Cellular services like Verizon have products for emergency use.
Set a Timeline and stick to it. Do not transition too slowly or let other projects take priority or more issues will arise and you will not fully benefit from your investment.
Set a Go Live date from the start to have a goal and to keep the process moving. Open ended projects are easily delayed or even abandoned.
Define new workflows – don’t be bound to the paper workflows. Regularly evaluate and refine the new workflows.
High quality data: garbage in = garbage out! Think about what data you will enter electronically and how you will enter it. This part of implementation requires 1 or 2 staff who will be dedicated to learning the processes and making this successful. Many times an administrative person will prepare the electronic records with guidance from a director to assure overall goals are met.
Reduce your workload by uploading only what is needed to provide your services safely and efficiently. Historical data may need to stay in paper form.
Establish guidelines for uploading documents and entering data to ensure uniformity and clean appearance to your records. Such detail as using Title Case instead of ALL CAPS or inconsistent upper and lower case will make a difference when using the application.
Adding Users. When you go live with your staff and clients, define the process best for you. By User, By Service, By Location, All at once.
Reduced productivity while learning. Expect and prepare for a reduction in productivity by staff as they transition and learn the electronic application. Services must continue and training might require overtime or creative covering of job duties.
Restrict Printing. Once you have an electronic record, it should be accessed and shared electronically and not printed.
Training. Consider the process of bringing staff on board. Select Super Users to provide ongoing assistance and training. Give supervisors and “champions” time to adjust to the new workflow and become familiar with the application before adding additional staff. Allow time for staff to “play” in the application.
What to do with the paper records. There are governmental guidelines requiring documents to be maintained for a number of years. You can plan on scanning/uploading into your electronic record or for other electronic storage, or storing them as paper until they can be destroyed properly.
In 2016, more people from all ages and stages of life use electronic devices – mostly smart phones, laptops and tablets, so the leap from paper to electronic applications is not as difficult as in the past. Involving staff from the beginning, explaining the benefits and setting expectations will help with acceptance and transition. There will be staff with limited experience with computers and some who are afraid of using them who will need time to adjust. There are online resources to help people learn about computers – here are links to a few.
Return on Investment
Financial benefits are many and are usually seen after the transition has occurred/the first year of use. Other benefits include staff satisfaction (reduced turnover), increase quality of services, more timely and accurate collaboration/sharing of information, and increased access to information.
- Greatly reduce or eliniate the need to print
- Reduce/Eliminate space required to store charts
- Acheive additional revenue through increase client flow and increased productivity
- More timely billing / more accurate billing
- Reduce possible fines or recoupements due to missing required documentation
- Reduce staff time required to manage charts and share information
- Increase quality of services through efficient and timely monitoring of quality indicators
The first thing to think about when considering a transition from paper to electronic processes is Why?
Why you are doing it?
Here’s the start of a list – what would you add?
- Greater access to records – more easily searched
- Multiple people accessing the record at the same time
- Maintain only 1 copy of records for all locations and personnel – reduced dulplication of content
- Increase efficiency
- Grow your business – use staff to provide services instead of tending the chart
- Reduce or eliminate storage space
- Improve communication and ease of communication
- More easily share information and documents
- More quickly and easily receive documentation for more timely billing
- Improve documentation
- Reduce time auditing charts
- Quick and easy reports – easily aggregated data
Paper documentation is very limiting. You have to be in the same location to view it. Handwriting is often illegible. Paper documentation is not formatted to query or analyze without transferring it to another format. It is easily lost, destroyed, and damaged.
Most every industry is benefiting from electronic data and documentation, why not you?