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Tech TIG Week: Lessons Learned when Implementing an Electronic Health Record in Behavioral Health by Amanda Zwirecki

Author Amanda Zwireki

Hello AEA 365! I’m Amanda Zwireki, I am the Director of Evaluation at a Certified Community Behavioral Health Center (CCBHC) in New York State. I played an integral role in a multi-year organization-wide effort to improve how we capture behavioral health data to support the highest level of care and data-driven decision making. I would like to share with you the five lessons I learned in my role on the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Transformation Team.

Lessons Learned

  1. Transformation takes time. When working with any data management system, transformation takes more time than you think. When my organization first started having conversations about moving on from an outdated system, the product sales team assured us that this change could happen in one year. Which could have been true if we were starting data capture after a brand new EHR system went live. In reality it took over 3 years to move from signing the contract to getting over 200 people ready to use the system confidently. This additional time was well worth it, it allowed our organization to do the following:
    • Invest in training our team of over 200 users in a multitude of roles.
    • Customize some much-needed elements in the user interface.
    • Allow for the system to grow on its own and incorporate those updates into our final product.
  2. You are the expert in your needs. We often looked to the product owners to be the experts, but they didn’t know our organization and our needs. We as the Transformation Team needed to have a complete understanding of the many workflows currently in place to successfully serve our community. We needed to think critically about how the current processes worked, and where we wanted to make improvements. The product implementation team may not have understood our needs the first time we discussed them, but I learned that being persistent in explaining our needs was integral to getting the end product that would work for our team.
  3. Ask every question. When mapping the data from our old EHR to the new one, we didn’t ask a few really important questions which led to some last-minute work for our whole team, which could have easily been avoided. We often assumed someone else on the team had a full understanding or could answer our internal questions, and left meetings with the product owner implementation team with more questions than answers. It was our job to be the leaders in this transition and this new tool, so we had to coordinate internally all of our questions to share with the implementation team.
  4. Reporting needs to be addressed first, not last! Learning how to get our data out of the new system was one of the last steps in the implementation process. This is something that our team wished we would have put more thought into during the entirety of the project. We could have made our own data dictionary while configuring the EHR and gotten the reporting up and running as soon as possible after going live.
  5. Mission over everything. Keeping in mind the mission and vision of our organization helped our transformation team stay the course and not get side-tracked on cool but minor features. It is easy to get in the weeds in any technology implementation. Our transformation team had a mission and core values check to make sure the work we were doing was in the best interest of our community.

The American Evaluation Association is hostingIntegrating Technology into Evaluation TIG Week with our colleagues in the Integrating Technology into Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from ITE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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