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EHR Implementation is a Journey, Not a Destination

Carrie Vaughan, for HealthLeaders Media, September 29, 2009

If you have seen one physician practice, you have seen one physician practice. I often hear that phrase when talking with healthcare executives about best practices and lessons learned from successful electronic health record implementations. Health systems, hospitals, and clinics all have their own unique personality that is shaped by their geographic and organizational culture. That means there is no set formula to guarantee a successful EHR implementation. Organizations must find the path that works best for them.

A recent report by healthcare market research firm IDC Health Insights analyzed how two Norwegian hospitals—St. Olavs Hospital in Trondheim and Ahus Hospital in Oslo—successfully adopted digital technologies. The study, "Best practices: Norway's hospital evolution—A tale of two cities," concluded that there wasn't a single template for successful health IT implementations. Both projects were full replacements of aging facilities, but they used different methods to realize the vision of a digital hospital.

For example, St Olavs chose a single-vendor and an outsourced solution, whereas, Ahus worked with multiple vendors, retained some of its legacy systems, and managed its IT transformation internally. Even though Ahus was able to adopt more mature technology, since it began its implementation two years later than St. Olavs' project, both systems are now fully operational and their digital transformations deemed a success by their staff members and communities.

Similarly, there are various examples of successful EHR implementations here in the United States. All one has to do is take a look at the 2009 HIMSS Davies Award of Excellence recipients, which were announced this past week by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

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