EMR, The Physician ERP

Posted on May 28, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve heard this mentioned a few times, but in all my posts I don’t think I’d ever mentioned it myself. But it’s very true that EMR is the Physician equivalent of an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). Wikipedia describes an ERP as such:

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is an integrated computer-based system used to manage internal and external resources including tangible assets, financial resources, materials, and human resources. It is a software architecture whose purpose is to facilitate the flow of information between all business functions inside the boundaries of the organization and manage the connections to outside stakeholders. Built on a centralized database and normally utilizing a common computing platform, ERP systems consolidate all business operations into a uniform and enterprise wide system environment.

Basically, it’s consolidating all of your IT software in one package. However, the real key is that by implementing this broad variety of packages you’re affecting almost every part of the organization. This is why I think the comparison of EMR software with an ERP is so interesting. An EMR has the same impact on the entire organization as the ERP does in a business.

As an aside, it is also interesting to note that ERP’s have been slow to be implemented in small business and have been most popular in very large companies. So, I think it’s interesting to see that we’ve seen a somewhat similar thing happen in healthcare. Most large hospital organizations have an EMR (at least in some state) and the smaller clinics have been more resistant to implementing an EMR.

The question then is what are the lessons we can learn from ERP implementations that we can apply to EMR implementations? Turns out that they’re things that I’ve talked about over and over.

1. Get Leadership Buy-In – An ERP is doomed to failure without a strong leadership that drives the ERP initiative. Since it affects every level of the organization it takes a strong leader to implement the changes and bring everyone together. The same is true for EMR.
2. Find Great Support – When you implement an ERP, you have to create a huge budget for customizations. In fact, one of your biggest expenses will be the consulting help you need to customize the ERP to meet your organization goals and policies. The consultants you bring to help you are critical to the quality of the implementation. EMR and IT consultants can have the same impact during an EMR implementation. Every EMR needs some level of customization for your clinic and a consultant well versed in your product can be a great boon.
3. Consider Implementation Phases – An ERP never goes live all at once. They ALWAYS do it in phases. This could be a great lesson for EMR implementations. Don’t bite off more than you can chew when you’re implementing. For example, in one implementation I did we just started with entering the diagnosis and charges into the EMR. Then, shortly after that we implemented the rest of the charting in the EMR. You can’t implement EVERY EMR feature from day one. So, phased EMR implementations are a good idea.
4. Include Staff in Selection Process – I was working at a large university and was asked to participate in a presentation by each of the ERP vendors. I felt very empowered to be part of the selection process. The challenge is that you can’t be fake about this. Don’t invite people to the meeting and then not listen to them. Otherwise, it will have the opposite impact from what you want. Really listen to people’s feedback and make sure they know you heard what they said and took it into serious consideration. Turns out that this involvement also helps with the buy-in mentioned above.

I’m sure there are many more. Feel free to add some in the comments. Much can be learned from other industries that can be applied nicely in healthcare. We’re not as unique as we’d like to think we are.