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Five Proven Approaches to EHR Test Planning

August 31, 2015
by By Jennifer Trandem, Senior Advisor, Aspen Advisors, Part of The Chartis Group
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Lack of adequate planning can leave your organization at risk, delaying implementation because of issues with functionality, end user acceptance, or patient safety concerns from inaccurate or incomplete workflows
Jennifer Trandem

With the complexity of electronic health record (EHR) implementations and accelerated timelines, some organizations wait to consider what is needed for testing until it is time to start. Lack of adequate planning can leave your organization at risk, delaying implementation because of issues with functionality, end user acceptance, or patient safety concerns from inaccurate or incomplete workflows.

Here are five proven steps you can follow to build testing into your EHR implementation plan.  

Develop a Testing Strategy

It is critical to develop a testing strategy and timeline during implementation planning to ensure you have sufficient time and resources built into the project plan. Although you may not be certain about the detailed timeline during initial planning, you can allot dedicated time up front for each testing phase and rounds within phases. Testing phases can include: application, regression, integrated, user acceptance, claims, charging, parallel revenue cycle and mapped record. By blocking off time for each of the testing phases, you can more easily slide them into to the overall timeline as the project moves forward. Allocating specific time for test script development is also important.

Define and Validate Workflows

Application workflows are a valuable tool used for system validation, determining application build requirements and confirming build match specifications. They can also be used during training and go-live support. Integrated workflows provide an opportunity to see how the applications integrate across the organization and establish a great foundation for integrated test scripts and testing requirements. Be sure to validate workflows early on and consider multiple patient scenarios.

Allocate Resources Early On

Testing occurs at a very busy and critical point in implementation. Accurate and in-depth testing requires the participation of multiple resources across the organization. Preparing and allocating time and resources and a dedicated testing space should occur well in advance. Resources, including project team members, subject matter experts and key stakeholders for the project need to be engaged from the beginning of implementation planning, when the testing strategy is being developed, all the way through testing execution to provide the most value and continuity.

Develop Scripts Collaboratively

The time required to develop accurate and pertinent testing scripts is often underestimated. The most valuable test scripts come from a collaborative group of project team members and key operational staff. In particular, integrated test scripts require a collective group effort to ensure clinical and financial input into the test script are appropriate and meet the requirements of all the applications and operational departments involved. Integrated scripts developed in the silo of a project team often remain focused on functionality and may not reflect real world content. Script development refers not only to the traditional methods of creating a “paper” script but the development of automated test scripts utilizing test management tools. Either method requires adequate time to develop the final product.

Track Testing Process and Outcomes

Tracking the testing process from requirements to completion is essential. By tracking requirements upfront, you have a defined set of expectations to manage during testing. Monitor and track outcomes during each testing phase that correspond to the requirements, so you have a clear understanding of what needs to be tested, what was tested, when it was tested and if the test was successful. Every organization may define different criteria for success, but tracking the process is critical for determining whether or not criteria are met.

Preparing for and remaining mindful of testing during all the phases of an EHR implementation will help make it more effective and valuable. A testing strategy and plan that are well thought out and communicated will not leave the team wondering if the system has been thoroughly vetted. Incorporating test planning early and continuously, and adjusting throughout the project as needed will ensure more organized and successful testing outcomes. The value of your efforts—and your EHR—will be realized when you can demonstrate your testing was well planned and executed through a reduction in issues and unaccounted risks.

Aspen Advisors is an IT advisory services firm that works with healthcare organizations across the country to enhance performance through the strategic and effective use of information technology. In November 2014, Aspen joined The Chartis Group to bring clients thought leadership and capabilities in strategic planning, accountable care solutions, clinical transformation and information technology.

Jennifer Trandem is a healthcare information technology professional with more than 14 years of experience focused in the areas of Epic testing, training and project management serving health delivery organizations.