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EMR Activation Dates-

An EMR project is a significant undertaking for any hospital. Perhaps one of the largest project many hospitals tackle in a decade. One of the most simple steps, setting an EMR activation date, can be harder than it sounds. Before you set your date, consider the impact if you don’t hit the mark.

Why set a date?

Setting a date is important for the obvious reason—you need a target to drive toward. But what drives the setting of a date? Many things:

  • You must shut down an existing system at a certain time due to support or contractual dates
  • A new implementation has a daily cost—the sooner the activation, the better
  • Commitments made by executive staff to the Board, the community, or other stakeholders
  • Contractual obligations with the vendor
  • A rush to recognize the savings or benefits of the new system

There’s no going back

While no one can argue the importance of setting a date, Atlanticon cautions against publicizing it too early. Accurately setting an EMR activation date too early in the project can be like trying to hit a bullseye in the dark. Large EMR projects have enormous amounts of variables that can alter the activation date. Unexpected team member changes, faulty code, errors in design or build, unexpected system issues, delays in hardware readiness, slow decision making, and interface issues are just some of the many things that can help derail a project.

Once your executive team publishes a date to the user community, it becomes very difficult to change that date. Changed dates can give the perception that the project wasn’t managed properly, the vendor wasn’t delivering successfully, or the system isn’t safe. And the real reason may be none of the above. But the fear that a delay will be received incorrectly, is sometimes enough to cause a project to move on when a delay may have been in the best interest of everyone.

Choosing your words

There is a reasonable way to approach this. We recommend that you select your EMR activation date based on data from the project plan. Once that date is selected, it should not be published to anyone outside the immediate project team. The early announcement should be general, such as, “The new system will be ready for use in the first half of 2019” When is it safe to pick a date and put a stake in the ground? Atlanticon recommends that you announce an exact date at the completion of integration testing round 1. Only then will you have a comfort level that design is solid, build was successful, and the system functions as a whole. You will have at least one more round to work through remaining issues, but at least you’ll have a fairly strong comfort level with the date you announce.

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