Best practice: Plan ahead when merging EHRs

When two physician practices join forces and both use the same electronic health record (EHR) system, the integration should be easy. Not so, according to Jacqueline Fincher, M.D., a Thomson, Georgia-based primary care physician.

"Every single office has a different workflow for every type of encounter ... and you have to understand the differences," said Fincher in a presentation at the American College of Physicians' recent annual meeting, reports MedPage Today. "Similarly, it's important for the IT team to fully understand these differences in workflow either in a new EHR or in a new practice."

The price tag for merging the two practices' EHRs was $190,000, which included hardware, new servers and personnel time. It didn't include doctors' lost productivity, which dropped by nearly 50 percent in the first month, reports the publication.

While the initial "go live" date for the merged EHRs was June 2015, it took an additional two-and-a-half months before both practices were really up and running on the merged EHR, according to Fincher.

For those practices that are about to face a similar merger, Fincher suggests that the organizations create an EHR merger team, conduct a site visit, and ask questions, such as what data has to stay in the EHR, what's the workflow for each visit type, and how accessible is archived data at the point of care.

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