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Danielle Ewing, MPH, MBA, CPHIT

Navigating EHR Implementations: Important Considerations for Title X Clinics to Ensure Success

2017-01-20

The Title X Family Planning Program (Title X) is a federal grant program administered by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Population Affairs (OPA). Its purpose is to offer grants to state and local health departments, hospitals, faith-based organizations, and other community-based entities to provide family planning and related preventive health services to low-income and uninsured individuals.

Annually, the OPA releases a set of program priorities to guide Title X program goals for the coming year. And, not surprisingly, program priorities for the last few years have included the implementation of Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems to support their goal of effectively providing infrastructure, management, and accessibility for family planning and health services data to individuals and families. Adoption and use of EHRs address key issues identified by the OPA, which must be considered in grantees’ project plans for the year.

To ensure success as you plan for implementing EHRs, it is important to focus on identifying reasonable scope for the system functionality required for the first phase of implementation, and proactively manage that scope throughout the project to prevent “scope creep”.

As a Title X clinic, you should consider the following recommendations as you hone in on and manage scope:

  • Clearly define and articulate the vision and goals of your organization, and develop a plan that makes those goals attainable in a phased, actionable way
  • Identify and focus on federal requirements and key programmatic needs to serve the client population
  • Hold critical conversations – with project leadership and key stakeholders – to identify functionality that is “must-have” versus “nice-to-have” in the future system
  • Develop a long-term plan for implementation, i.e., a phased approach to expanding system functionality to include other programs and/or other “nice-to-have” functionality not included in the initial phase

Implementing an EHR is no small feat, especially if scope is not managed appropriately throughout all project phases. With the excitement that often accompanies moving to an EHR, stakeholders are understandably tempted to “want it all” on day one of implementation. You must, however, focus on essential functionality for the initial implementation to increase the likelihood of a successful, timely system launch and to build a solid foundation for future phases. This also helps EHR users become accustomed with core functionality before expanding the EHR for non-essential and/or more complicated processes and workflows.

For more information on the Title X program priorities for 2017, you can read more on the HHS.gov website