EDR implementation: Converting patient records

Making the transition from paper records to electronic systems – such as EDRs and practice management software – can be a daunting and complicated task. Even a small practice will have hundreds of patient records which have to be converted to digital format in order to be usable. Some clinics don’t even think about their data until they are half way into the EDR implementation, at which point they become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the project.

It is important to take stock of your records even before purchasing EDR software. In fact, the complexity and number of patient records may also influence your buying decision. Here are a few steps which can help to make the process manageable:


1. Evaluate the state of your records

The integrity of source data plays a significant role in deciding the outcome of the conversion process. Take a look at your paper charts for missing, incomplete or illegible data. Identify and implement the steps needed to clean up the records and ensure that they are up-to-date.


2. Categorize the data fields

Determine your most active patients so that you can concentrate your efforts on their charts. There will be certain elements that are not needed for one group while another might need extra notes. Decide how to deal with such variations. Ensure that every document you wish to convert has a corresponding field in the software. Some elements may need to be entered into a generic notes section if they do not fit anywhere else.


3. Identify the best method for conversion

For every data element or document, establish the best method of entering the data, which will be determined by the value of the information and the time taken to enter it. Accordingly, some documents may need to be scanned while others will be manually entered either through typing or voice dictation. A few records such as lab reports may already be available in a digital form. It may be possible to “bulk convert” them as long as both the sending and receiving system can work with the same data format.


4. Timeframe and budget

Make a plan detailing the timeframe and budget for the entire project. Offer incentives such as a bonus or extra vacation time since your staff will have to work longer hours or come in during the weekends.

A well-planned strategy, which balances the utility of information with the cost of conversion, goes a long way in ensuring that the data conversion is completed without hitting any major obstacles.



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