The implementation of an integrated electronic health record (EHR) is a huge undertaking for hospitals. It is a commitment that requires a great deal of time and energy from all employees, but the end result comes with many perks, including more efficient work processes, significant amounts of time saved, and increased patient safety. This article will discuss a couple of components found in the implementation process that serve as critical success factors for the favourable installation of a new EHR. However, it goes without saying that all steps and aspects contribute to a positive outcome of the EHR implementation.


Good preparation as solid basis for EHR implementation

The preparatory phase forms the foundation of a successful implementation. An essential success factor is the coordination between the hospital and the new EHR. To this end, it is vital to assess the structure of the entire healthcare facility. Which work processes are currently in use and which will need to be standardised or revised?  This is a great way of mapping the routine functioning of a hospital. The implementation of an electronic health record will inevitably change the way in which a hospital operates. However, effectively applying the work processes from the practical work environment to the EHR is the optimal way to prepare the organisation for the adoption of the software.


Working out the kinks during the test phase

The test phase is just as crucial a step during the implementation process. During test days, the hospital and the software supplier will use test scripts to check whether the migrated data were transferred correctly and whether the software functions properly in practice. The functionalities, as well as the converted data, will be tested extensively. Any issues present will emerge during this phase. Afterwards, the software is fine-tuned to ensure that the EHR optimally supports and facilitates the care processes.


Training staff members

Preparation to start using the EHR will not be sufficient without in-depth training of project and support staff. They will serve as the bridge between the end users and the software (supplier). Well-informed support staff and application managers are an invaluable asset to the hospital in helping end users with any questions, issues, or wishes.

Fieke Vermeer, project leader during the EHR implementation process at Belgian hospital groups ZNA and GNA: 'The project staff members receive ample support by means of various courses that will prepare them for their respective roles. To name an example, the project management and the work group chairs follow a course on how to conduct a project in order to standardise the project methodology.'


Communication is key

Wim Niewold, CNIO at ZNA, sums it up perfectly: 'We are not just implementing a health record, but an entirely new way of operating. We need to motivate our colleagues for this new practice.' Indeed, clear and consistent communication comprises the largest success factor. Collaboratively following this principle will ensure all members of the team are aware of the project status at all times, and that they can easily adapt if the situation calls for it. Devoting time and attention to staff members and supervisors, as well as communicating the status of the project clearly, helps everyone prepare for the road ahead. The project schedule serves as the starting point for the EHR implementation process, to be consulted or adjusted following mutual agreement, if necessary.