Planned Parenthood affiliates team up to make EHR implementation a success

Four Planned Parenthood affiliates in California banded together to form an organization to lead implementation a joint electronic health record system, a journey described in a new paper from the California Healthcare Foundation. That organization, now called Voxent, has since become the national IT management services organization for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, according to an announcement.

Initially, Voxent, landed a $50,000 grant from the California Networks for EHR Adoption (CNEA); it followed that up with a $1 million implementation grant.

"A large number of EHR adoption efforts fail, not due to technical difficulties, but because community health centers are unprepared to address the myriad business-planning challenges involved in selecting a vendor, negotiating a contract and implementing a system that fully meets their needs," the paper states.

By joining together, the organizations were able to save money on group purchasing of software, hardware and services. They also were able to employ shared IT staff, as well as share information and lessons learned, which included:

  • Ensuring customer buy-in to the organization's overall success.
  • Establishing long-term customer commitment. The initial three-year membership agreement helped Voxent to create a long-term plan.
  • Having a solid understanding of the customer's business requirements. Voxent initially was staffed by Planned Parenthood employees who had deep understanding of their affiliates' specific needs.
  • Starting small and keeping the scope manageable. Voxent defined a core set of services and delivered on them successfully before attempting expansion.

"Keys to early success were defining a clear set of goals, keeping the organization's scope manageable, and taking a strategic outlook toward potential avenues for growth," the paper says. "The founders clearly articulated a plan for reaching goals that were lofty but achievable and demonstrated progress toward them."

Healthcare organizations large and small are seeking more help with their EHR implementations, leading to a booming market for health IT consultants. But the failed project at Girard Medical Center in Kansas highlights the problems with relying too heavily on a vendor's advice.

Officials at Henry County Health Center, a 74-bed critical access hospital in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, however, took advantage of a close-knit workforce at its small facility to make its implementation a success.

To learn more:
- read the paper
- here's the announcement

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