Transitioning to a new electronic health records EHR software system is daunting. Your staff needs to be prepared, trained, and supported throughout the process to ensure a smooth EHR migration. We are a single-specialty, single location group ob/gyn private practice with 7 providers and 30 staff and we switched to the athenahealth EHR solution.
This article – part one of a series – will help explain why we chose athenahealth and how we prepared for the transition.
First, why did we choose athenahealth?
Our decision to switch to athenahealth was based on many factors, including the recognition that Greenway Prime Suite, our current EMR software, was out-of-date, lacked important features, and had technical flaws.
Athenahealth is a stable and successful EMR organization with over 15 years in business and thousands of ob/gyn users. I was very impressed by their true cloud-based, device independent software where all the users share one large database. This provides a tremendous benefit because of the ability to aggregate information across their network of other ob/gyn physician practices, allowing the system to offer patient care suggestions.
athenahealth Prenatal Care Module
The athenahealth prenatal care module is far more advanced than the one we had been using. As a private and independent obstetrics and gynecology practice, our most crucial need is a robust obstetrical prenatal charting module.
There are a number of features available to us in athenaClinicals that our prior EMR did not provide. athenahealth OB/GYN users enjoy a number of important features that are essential for the delivery of safe, patient-centered care.
- Each prenatal visit can be recorded in the usual flowsheet but also is entered as a patient care visit with templates for diagnoses, medications, orders, and plans, each of which can be pre-configured as macros and order sets
- The educational module can be customized and separated by trimester
- Customizable prenatal lab flow sheet
- The events of the delivery can be entered as structured data and then reported on afterwards using the ACOG Prenatal Care solution from Dorsata
- The OB problem list links back to the Past History section of the medical record
Preparing For The athenahealth Implementation
Our biggest concern was ensuring we were adequately prepared for the transition to athena. Training our whole staff on the new system was vitally important but was a challenge since many were busy with day-to-day tasks. We were also wary of new conflicts that might arise during the launch. Our goal was to be over-prepared before go live.
We started athenahealth superuser training well in advance of our Fall 2020 launch date. To help bring on the entire staff, I began using Screencast-O-Matic, a screen recorder and video editor, to walk participants through how to access the athenahealth training site and the recorded webinars. Hearing my voice and tailoring this training for our staff was an effective way to get people started on their self-paced training.
What about patient insurance data?
It’s important to note that none of the patient insurance information will migrate, due to formatting differences between the two EHR systems.
To help get this data entered, we decided to work with Epion. Their Mobile Patient Check-in solution allows the patient to enter their own insurance information and takes a photo of their insurance card a week prior to their scheduled appointment.
This allowed for clean and accurate insurance data for every patient we saw.
The online resources for learning athenahealth are impressive.
- There is a curriculum-based learning system customized for different job functions
- There are numerous recorded webinars
- Online small group classes hosted by live instructors are available for users to register
- There is a help search function offering information on anything in the program you can think of
Live athenahealth training sessions were key
MDS provided regular live athenahealth training sessions with athenahealth EHR experts and a flexible agenda which we used to help prepare our superusers. The folks on the call with us were patient, personable and really knew their athenahealth stuff! I joined as many calls as I could and I’m glad I did so I could give more precise directions for certain configuration requirements that came up.
By the time we were about 6 weeks from “Go Live”, MDS had already accomplished several significant tasks to help prepare us for the launch:
- They confirmed that all insurance plans were credentialed with their clearinghouse
- Helped us set up our new banking accounts and workflows
- Walked us through establishing a new credit card merchant account
- Card swipers and check scanners were on the way
- All users, providers, and facilities were already entered in the system
6 weeks prior to “go live”
In addition to training everyone, the final push for us was to customize the various templates and modules. Macros can be built and modified. HPI, ROS, and PE can be configured. Order sets and Encounter plans can be created or edited. A large library of specialty-based customized material is available to build on.
The outbound athenahealth patient engagement tools are extensive.
The athenahealth patient engagement tools include appointment reminders, results calls, annual exam reminders, balance due reminders and more. All of these items need to be setup and customized (including the creation of professional voice recordings for the wording we have submitted). We also input our business letters and forms so the system can generate these on demand.
We arranged to go live with Epion, a third-party app available on the athenahealth marketplace. This app provides remote check-in for our patients, including:
- Demographic and insurance checking and updating
- Ability to collect co-pays or balances due ahead of time
- Allowing patients to read and sign forms
- Updating of their health information
- Taking pictures of their ID, insurance card, or themselves
- Filling out screening questionnaires
All these steps are done days before their appointment. We went live with Epion simultaneously with athenahealth.
Another issue was our Prime Suite EHR data migration and EHR archive, services and technology provided by MDS. Having this plan laid out ahead of time was a huge help in setting up some data-related deadlines. This will be discussed more in part two of this series.
Prior to making the switch to a new EHR software system, look carefully at your type of practice and your EHR needs and wants. There are many different specialties and many types of practices – single specialty, multi-specialty, single-location vs multi-location, high volume of Medicaid or HMO patients or just private, as well as academic and corporate (but they choose the EHR for you) or public health. If you are in a position to evaluate and switch your EHR, you have a big decision to make.
Deciding to go to athenahealth was based on many factors. There are many good EHRs available. Knowing that MDS would partner with us for our entire journey to athenahealth was a major deciding factor. MDS has continued to impress me with the quality of their staff and their commitment to our success.
The next article in this series explains our process for migrating and archiving our Prime Suite data.