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Epic Upgrades are vital to your organization’s success.  Having the most up-to-date software can help your healthcare system streamline workflows, make reporting easier, and help you get the most out of your EHR.  There are a few things that you should consider before you start planning epic upgrades, though.  Here are three:


Organizational Leadership Define & Prioritize the Goals of the Upgrade
Part of this process is making sure your upgrade project governance is in place.  While organizational leadership needs to have a clear understanding of their ‘pain-points’, the upgrade should accomplish strategic goals that advance key priority initiatives across the organization – including both ambulatory and inpatient. The EHR governance structure that helps to make key decisions regarding the number and type of enhancements, out of the hundreds that are available, needs to include engaged leaders who are knowledgeable of how the applications support the overall business and clinical needs of the organization as well as have a good rapport with and are ‘in tune’ with their end users use of the system in daily workflows. Your expertise is knowing what your staff needs. This is fundamental to being able to provide input and oversight to the selection of those key enhancements that are chosen for implementation if optimal post upgrade user satisfaction and success are to be achieved.

Many organizations utilize their IT Service Desk ticket and reporting system, used by their Help Desk, to capture and manage the issues, problems, and requests for system changes. This provides a central place to collect a running list of challenges your staff faces each day in using your EHR as well as an optimization ‘wish list’.  A comprehensive report can usually be generated to help the teams compare these items to the enhancements available with the upgrade and make recommendations for those that would provide solutions.

It should be the role of the upgrade governance committee to make the final selection and prioritize which enhancements are implemented. Project Scope has a direct correlation to the number and type of enhancements included in the upgrade. Prioritization helps to identify the biggest wins and gives attention to the most vital improvements.  This is not something that IT or the application teams should own. Some factors that have to be weighed in the selection process are:

  • The cost and complexity to implement the enhancement
  • The benefits to be realized – widespread or focused
  • The regulatory requirement that would be met,
  • The enhancement supports another project that helps move the organization forward to its next strategic position.

As you use NOVA – the application that delivers the list of all upgrade related enhancements/fixes for review – you have the ability to manage your enhancement selections to either be included with the upgrade or placed on a ‘wish list’.  The NOVA database provides anyone with access the ability to review and comment on any of the enhancements allowing for input from key organizational representatives. This is the primary tool that should be used by the application teams during the upgrade for tracking and reporting on their review, build and testing of items included in the upgrade. Together with a list of collected issues and requests from the organization, the governance team can make better-informed decisions.

Dedicated Epic Upgrade Lead
Organizations generally do not have the luxury of setting aside multiple resources that do nothing but focus on an upgrade. Since an upgrade can span 12-18 months, and the needs of intense focus on a particular set of upgrade related tasks come at varying intervals, the application teams, IT technical staff, trainers, testers, etc. must continue to manage the day-to-day ‘run the business’ and support needs of the organization. The upgrade, therefore, must be planned so that it integrates with other ongoing work whether that is another parallel project to implement a new application, a go live of a new facility or an overhaul/update to the technical infrastructure.  Regardless of the scope of the upgrade, what is required, is a dedicated Upgrade Team Lead or Project Manager who is 100% devoted to managing all things related to the upgrade, has experience with what an upgrade requires, has a breadth of understanding of Epic in general and understands both the details and “Big Picture” of how the upgrade will be touched by or will impact other organization initiatives. Key is the ability to coordinate the specific details with them all to keep the upgrade project on track.  Resource demands will increase dramatically once you start the upgrade process and the Lead needs to set expectations appropriately as to when the upgrade activities must be a priority over other tasks or daily routine support activities.

Timeline & Budget
Target dates and budget allocations for an upgrade are often made months or a year in advance of the actual start of the upgrade. Knowing the drivers for how fast you need to implement your upgrade and any financial constraints that may limit how many of the enhancements you can take are key to developing a successful implementation timeline that keeps you within budget. Understanding other parallel projects or initiatives that may be equally important to the organization will help you determine if you need to bring in Consultants to support either the day-to-day running of your business or to assist with implementing your upgrade

Knowing your timeline and budget is crucial for defining project scope and a critical success factor for the upgrade.

If you need help with an Epic Upgrade, contact us today!

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