When I joined Arizona State Hospital as their CEO in May 2015, we already had an electronic health record (EHR) system in place, but it was old and dilapidated – unable to accept any updates or changes. We needed to upgrade our system in order to have the capacity to continue to grow and adapt to industry requirements. While our team was hesitant to take on this huge challenge, we soon realized that to stay aligned with requirements and achieve positive outcomes we had to take the leap and just do it.

It’s understandable that we were hesitant to make the change. Change brings discomfort and disruption, but we simply couldn’t become stranded and left in the dust based upon our own decision to not move forward with the times.

Of course, that required commitment and buy-in from hospital staff on all different levels. We worked closely with leadership and staff to keep them informed on progress and updates. We most certainly had growing pains – issues and hiccups that made the skeptics even more concerned, but that’s the nature of the beast when you take on something new.

We eventually got there. Our team worked hard to keep momentum moving with the implementation. Daily operations in our hospital needed to be adapted to accommodate new workflows and processes brought about by our new EHR system. Things weren’t going to be the same as it always had been, but with staff cooperation and a little faith in our team, we were able to get the kinks ironed out. The changes and differences that an EHR requires are minor nuisances compared to the immense value it brings for organizations in the long-run.

Most clinicians simply view the EHR as the place to enter patient information – it just becomes part of their daily tasks and the value ends there. That couldn’t be further from the truth at Arizona State Hospital. Every player in an organization needs to grasp the importance of the information they enter and what the EHR can do and show them with that information. They don’t need to know every little detail about how it all works, but they should realize the goldmine of information that an EHR places at their fingertips, allowing them to do their job to the best that they can.

EHRs provide an invaluable service to providers by serving as the tool that helps ensure quality patient care. To me, an EHR is central to any care organization because it captures and aggregates everything from individual patient information, to analytics and trends within the population you serve. It’s an excellent source of information that can help guide clinicians in providing treatment through the data and records it collects and stores.

It’s essential that your staff, from the top down, understand the importance of ensuring timely and accurate documentation to provide the best care possible and ensure that mandatory requirements and outcome goals are being met. It is powerful to be able to see the type and level of care being provided. Not only does it give insight to individual patient care, but it also uncovers a level of accountability and allows organizations to fine-tune their internal operations and processes.

Particularly for organization leaders, it’s important to take a step back and take a look at all the data to get a complete view of how your organization is performing as a whole. Determine what your data is telling you and leverage it where it makes sense beyond your regular reporting. Utilize it to find out if there is a need for things like additional staff training. Review it when it comes to making a financial decision. Quite often, the data held within your EHR can help support decisions beyond patient care. We should all be striving to make data-driven decisions.

I get it. It can be overwhelming when you look at charts and graphs with a ton of data on it. If you’re not naturally data-minded, it can be difficult to see the value in the data that your EHR can tell you. But, if you take the time to look deeper at information, or data sets, it can help you and your clinicians determine where you need to go from there.

Focus on working with your EHR partner to build an integrated module that works with your organization’s entire system. It is vital that your EHR partner be able to meet all of the regulatory requirements of your county and state … and more importantly, keep up with the ever-changing requests. Having the right EHR can make it much easier to be in compliance by acting as the central location for a tremendous amount of data.

Simply put, don’t let an EHR and its wealth of data frighten you. More and more organizations are moving forward with an electronic solution, and the more they use it and glean insights from the data it collects, its value becomes clear to both the organization and the people they serve. Take advantage of your EHR and its data capabilities to experience the powerful tool it is.

Eventually, shifts in healthcare approaches and practices will demand that organizations adopt EHR technology. Organizations with an EHR in place now are already reaping the benefits that their data is telling them about their population and organization, and informing necessary adjustments to improve their operations, services and outcomes. Consider your organization and its ability to collect, store and retrieve important patient and population data. Are you leading the way or are you falling behind?