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Hospital Executives' Leadership Critical to EHR Implementation

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives for HealthLeaders Media, September 13, 2010

This excerpt fromThe CIO's Guide to Implementing EHRs in the HITECH Era covers the senior executive's role in implementing an electronic health records system. Those in the C-suite who must lead this change are best prepared if they understand that it may indeed be profound. The guide is published by CHIME, The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives.

The CEO and the senior executive team must fully support the organization's efforts to implement an electronic health record. This support must be tangible, public and sincere. The CEO puts forth the organization's vision for improving quality and patient safety and positions IT as a key strategy for achieving the outcome.

While there is no exact formula to follow in implementing an EHR system, one ingredient to success appears to be the complete and unqualified support of the senior executive team, beginning with the CEO of the organization.

An informal survey of CHIME members found that the vast majority saw full senior executive support for an EHR implementation as a key factor to success.

It is crucial for the CEO and other senior executives to demonstrate that an EHR initiative is not an IT project, and it is not like most other hospital projects. The implementation of an EHR is a transformational initiative, and if its potential is to be realized, the organization will need to undergo foundational change to achieve mission-supporting objectives that include specific improvements to patient care and safety, often requiring that the organization restructure care delivery to meet the changing requirements of a reforming healthcare system.

Despite the many competing voices that call out for each senior executive's attention, an EHR implementation will demand significant involvement and participation. That is because electronic records will affect nearly all of the diverse constituents in the care delivery process; they will change work processes and content, individual workflows and the very culture of the organization. Those in the C-suite who must lead this change are best prepared if they understand that it may indeed be profound.

"The move to an EHR does not only require senior executive support—it requires senior leader champions for the process," says Kim Ligon, director of information services and CIO at DCH Health System. "They can't just support the project; they have to lead the charge or it becomes 'just an IT project.' "

Lack of full support for the implementation change effort will lead to a solution that does not see meaningful adoption by clinicians.

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