With the implementation of today’s major EMR systems, the vendors will suggest necessary staffing for the various analysts required to build and implement their software. The actual number of analysts recommended will depend on your organization's size and the implementation project's scope. Still, it is safe to assume that at least two analysts per application will be suggested. While adequate staffing is needed for a successful build and implementation, the long-term question to consider is, “what will my analyst staffing needs be after the implementation?”
Software vendors will provide recommended staffing models for post-go-live much like the recommended build team needed for implementation. In many cases, the numbers of analysts may be the same or very close. Some vendors will suggest that you should be able to scale back on the number of analysts post-go-live. Some will suggest that you can merge your analysts across applications and reduce the number. Your post-implementation staffing needs will vary significantly from your peer organizations, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” plan or formula for staffing. Several factors should be considered, however, when planning for your long-term staffing of revenue cycle application analysts:
- What are the other third-party applications to support your operations in addition to your major EMR vendor? Consider that software systems like 3M for coding can take up considerable analyst time to support, maintain, and ensure ongoing integration with your EMR.
- How often will your organization be implementing major updates for your EMR? Updates require extensive testing, build, and analysis. Quarterly updates may be needed to keep up with your vendor’s releases. This will cause the update process to be seemingly non-stop for the analysts.
- Are there new, major functions that your revenue cycle analysts will be taking on? For example, does your EMR include home health and hospice, and are you expecting that your existing analysts will take these on to support when they did not previously?
- Do you have an enterprise-wide document management system that your HIM analysts support? Today's major DMS systems can be extremely labor-intensive to support, and the end-user community consists of every department in the organization.
- How long did it take your organization to return to normal after implementation? How long was it before prior levels of cash flow were achieved? This will be a good indication of future issues and challenges for implementing updates, optimization, and meeting compliance requirements.
- Does your analyst team have a high degree of turnover? Do you have staff that is scheduled to retire?
- What is the number of service requests outstanding by team/individual, and what are the service level agreements for supporting them? Are they reasonable and attainable?
- Are there any functions that your operational staff will be directly supporting, such as minor master file updates (i.e., new zip codes, payers, employers)?
- Does your organization have a high degree of innovativeness and a need for optimization? These requests require not only analysts to build them - with the help of your EMR vendor - but also require a fair amount of time to research and test.
- Will your analysts serve as project managers or leads on project requests that involve optimization, adherence to compliance, and other initiatives?
- Are there plans to expand your organization’s business to involve new business partners, facilities, new departments, and other major resources? This will place a considerable strain on your analysts supporting ongoing maintenance, break/fix issues, and updates.
- Will your organization participate in any “excellence” programs sponsored by your EMR vendor? These can create small projects that require analyst time and attention to implement.
- What gaps in skills do you have in your analyst teams? Are there enough individuals that can write reports and extracts? Is cross-training a priority? Is there redundancy across your analysts? Is there anyone who is the only person with a particular skill or knowledge set?
- How demanding are the operational areas that you support? Do they have business analyst-type resources that can address project requests, service requests, and issues before submitting them? Are they willing to prioritize the requests, and do they provide enough detail to explain the need adequately?
- Does your organization have a high number of physicians turning over each year? Are you a teaching facility that has new residents and interns? This could impact your need for a dedicated, possible full-time analyst resource in your provider billing group to address these updates and ensure you can bill for their services adequately.
Listen to your EMR vendor on their recommendations for post-implementation staffing needs for your analysts. But also, carefully consider these factors when making your final plans and budgets. Getting this correct from the onset will better prepare your organization and avoid the need for emergency hiring and/or staff reductions later.