By Christy Hosier, RHIT, PMP
Author C.S. Lewis once said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
This quote is particularly relevant in healthcare today as organizations face insurmountable challenges related to COVID-19. No one knows if and when the virus will subside, but what we do know is this: Timely and HIPAA-compliant access to protected health information (PHI) is more important than ever before.
If an organization’s current release of information (ROI) process isn’t working—or the process is riddled with compliance risk due to lack of a streamlined approach across multiple disclosure points—there’s no time like the present to change course. This is true regardless of whether the organization wants to transition its in-house ROI to a vendor or change from one outsource vendor to another. Start where you are, and change the ending.
Finding the right ROI partner
However, ROI isn’t just about the technology. It’s about the people (i.e., the implementation team) behind the technology that can ultimately improve the overall ROI experience for staff, patients, payers, and others. The implementation team can facilitate any transition and help organizations meet their ROI goals—whatever those goals may be.
Following are five attributes of an all-star implementation team that can help organizations take their ROI processes to the next level:
1. Commitment to expeditious implementation. Far too often, the project duration exceeds what’s practical for most organizations. That’s because some vendors either task the organization itself with the implementation, or they don’t have a defined implementation process that includes these milestones: Initiation, analysis, configuration, testing, training, and go-live. Having this defined process in place saves time and ensures the vendor meets all of its responsibilities per the project scope and that the organization ultimately receives the services and technology it purchased.
Ask these questions of potential vendors: What is the project duration from start to finish, and what milestones are included? How will the team handle any deviation from the timeline?
2. Combination of HIM, technical, and project management expertise. The best teams are led by a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) who follows accepted best practices of enterprise-grade project management. Groups led by PMP-certified project managers are far more likely to deliver an ROI vendor transition project on time and under budget thanks to the extensive knowledge and experience they bring to the helm. They’re also able to effectively leverage project management software and online tools that provide organizations with real-time project and status updates. However, vendor implementation teams must also include a technical expert who understands hardware, software, and systems integration, as well as an HIM consultant with operational expertise who understands workflow challenges (e.g., patient experience, EMR integration points, quality assurance) and can identify best practice solutions. Without these three individuals, one or more aspects of implementation will undoubtedly suffer.
Ask these questions of potential vendors: Who is on the implementation team? What are their credentials and experience? What do they bring to the table, and how will it specifically benefit our organization?
3. Ability to streamline the ROI process enterprise-wide. In many organizations, chaos rules the ROI process. HIM, radiology, the legal department, and patient financial services may each use completely different protocols when releasing records. However, a trusted vendor partner doesn’t simply layer technology on top of an inefficient process. It ensures a centralized, enterprise-wide approach to PHI disclosure management before adding technology to the mix. When coupled with technology, this approach enables organizations to easily identify the ‘who, what, where, when, and why’ of any record release. Another big benefit? Improved patient and third-party requestor experience.
Ask these questions of potential vendors: Will the implementation team help us improve our existing processes? If so, how?
4. Ability to integrate with the EHR. A skilled vendor implementation team can integrate with any EHR—not just the most commonly-used vendors—while also meeting Direct Trust and meaningful use (MU) requirements. This includes any ancillary departmental EHR systems, legacy systems, and systems used by any hospitals, clinics, or physician practices that the health system acquires. Integration must also go beyond the EHR to include other modalities such as paper, microfilm, and microfiche.
Ask these questions of potential vendors: With what EHRs do you integrate? How do you handle legacy systems?
5. Adeptness at obtaining enterprise-wide buy-in. Any major transition requires interdepartmental communication, executive buy-in, and the ability to navigate the project through and around various inputs, interests, and voices. A skilled ROI implementation team can help an organization achieve all of this and more because the team understands how the technology fits, enterprise-wide. The team can identify and resolve challenges prior to go-live, making for a smoother transition with greater customer satisfaction.
Ask this question of potential vendors: How do you strive to get everyone enterprise-wide on the same page using the same platform so our organization can maximize productivity, compliance, and quality?
People + technology = success
Of course, today’s ROI platforms must leverage the latest technological innovations—EHR integration, electronic delivery, optical character recognition technology for quality assurance, digital intake, electronic requests, and more. However, a successful ROI transition is so much more than that. A skilled ROI vendor implementation team can set an organization up for success during COVID-19 and beyond. Choose a platform with an all-star team to ensure a smooth transition.
Christy Hosier, RHIT, PMP, is Vice President at Ciox Health.